The “... so I asked them to smile” project was sparked in Bikaner Rajasthan, in India, the country I now call home.

Walking along a busy market street one evening, I saw a man I wanted to photograph. He was dressed in a traditional loose-fitting tunic and pants and a green skullcap. A wisp of beard spilled from his chin and the thin mustache under his high cheekbones merged into the lines that creased his expressionless face.

His eyes intimidated me: they seemed like the eyes of a man who has seen enough – glazed, humorless, alive only to his memories.

Not knowing how to approach him, I turned to the men near him standing outside their cloth store, bemused by the foreign photographer in their midst. They were, however, happy to be photographed, and soon we were chatting like old friends. Then a voice called out to me lightheartedly, “Mere bhi photo lena!” (“Take my photo too!”)

Through the viewfinder I saw the white smudges on his skullcap and the lonely white hairs hiding in his mustache and beard. As his expression softened slightly, I wished to see him differently...

... so I asked him to smile.

Bikaner, Rajasthan, India

Bikaner, Rajasthan, India