Even though there are drastic differences between human cultures and the way we express ourselves, psychologist Paul Ekman discovered that facial expressions have a degree of universality that transcends time and place.
Each of these thousands of ways of moving the muscles in our faces, serve to express and reinforce one of the six basic emotions: anger, disgust, enjoyment, fear, sadness, and surprise.
And the most powerful and profound facial expression of them all? The smile.
Smiling is universally considered to be a way we display joy. It can communicate our internal world to people on the outside, and it can be a welcoming sign to new people.
Photographer Jay Weinstein has a great sense of its importance.
‘So I Asked Them To Smile’ is a portrait photography project by Australian-born Jay Weinstein which will be exhibited for the first time at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai.
When asked how he conceived this idea, Weinstein said, “So I Asked Them To Smile was sparked by a chance encounter with a man I hesitated to photograph. It started the moment he smiled and all my inhibitions melted away. I knew instantly that this photography project would not only be a creative challenge but also affect positive change, starting with me.”
His pictures also show that a smile is unique to every individual and that it’s sometimes hard to know how beautiful they look when they smile until they do.
The author shared his passion for the project with Bored Panda: “What I love most about this photography project is that it forces me to face my fears and approach people I don’t know. It forces me to challenge whatever preconceptions I have of them and learn again and again how inaccurate my assumptions are. Most of all, at this time of division, ‘so I asked them to smile’ stands as a profound and loving reminder of how much we all truly have in common.”
soiaskedthemtosmile – “She was walking with her friends one evening as I photographed a donkey enclosure in the beautiful and isolated plateau village of Turtuk, Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India…so I asked her to smile.”
soiaskedthemtosmile – “He was wandering home one evening with his friend, walking along the stone wall-lined lanes that cut through the lush fields of Hundar, in the starkly stunning Nubra Valley of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India…so I asked him to smile.”
The diverse range of smiles that Jay brings is truly fascinating. From kids to the elderly, from east to west, and many different countries and cultures in between. The author seemingly scoured the globe to get as many unique smiles as he did. The diverse range of smiles that Jay brings is truly fascinating. From kids to the elderly, from east to west, and many different countries and cultures in-between. The author seemingly scoured the globe to get as much unique smiles as he did. He has started in 2013, and has been doing it for 7 years now. “I have spent most of my life, and much of most years, in India. I lead small group tours, photograph and explore this stunningly beautiful, complex, and multifaceted culture. Thus most of my images are from India. I have also brought this project to China, Singapore, Australia, Kenya, and Nepal. The dream is to one day take ‘so I asked them to smile’ to every country on earth. Let’s see what my time, finances, and the post-COVID-19 world look like!”
soiaskedthemtosmile – “He was hunched over the remains of a fire and empty pot of tea as I approached his house one afternoon in Muthatari, near Embu, in the Eastern Province of Kenya…so I asked him to smile.”
When asked about his favorite trip and who smiled the most, Jay was equally generous to each and every one of the places that he’s been in: “That is a truly impossible question to answer! What is truly memorable for me is how sweet, kind, and friendly 99% of the people I meet are, in every country I visit, once I make the effort of talking to them. [In terms of who smiles the most] If forced to guess an answer, I would say India. I would also add that almost everyone I have approached, in every country, has smiled easily and with so much joy that it humbles me to share in that moment.”
soiaskedthemtosmile – “She was playing on the streets with her friends one evening as I wandered around the old town of Leh, in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India…so I asked her to smile.”
The author adds a little extra in his Instagram stories as he embeds them with a story of how he got the photo, what those people were like, where they were taken. Some say the eyes are the mirror of one’s soul, and while we agree, a smile reflects the beauty of one’s soul just as well. Make sure you check them out on his Instagram page because it’s a great charge of positive energy for the entire day.
soiaskedthemtosmile – “He was waiting in line at 7 AM outside the post office opening at 11 AM, that exchanges invalidated 500 and 1000 rupee notes for newly printed currency, in Jojowar, Rajasthan, India…so I asked him to smile.”
The author wrapped it up beautifully himself, saying that “The project has no overt message to convey, though it has plenty to say. What I hear from ‘so i asked them to smile’ is that we all have far more in common than we are told. I see a simple human smile speaking through whatever barriers class, economic status, ethnicity, sex, religion, or geographic location create.”
Speaking for his upcoming plans to My Modern Met, Jay said:
“I am actively traveling and photographing. Though I am currently in Australia, I am planning to head towards the mountains of India on my return. I have a couple of beginner-intermediary North-Indian photography tours that I will facilitate. One is coming up in November 2016 and then February 2017. All are with the lovely people at Touch of Spirit Tours.”
“I am also developing intimate and customizable India adventures. Trips will be flexible, lots of walking and mingling with people and the culture. I seek the sweet spot between planned and unplanned, where the magic lives. India is great like that. This project will take a little longer to set up but I am very excited!”
“I also work closely with The Sacred India Gallery in Perth, Australia. They commission me to document sacred towns in India as well as present my images to their members.”
soiaskedthemtosmile – “She was exploring the stunningly restored, 1300-year-old Kaiyuan temple complex one evening in Quanzhou, Fujian, China…so I asked her to smile.”
soiaskedthemtosmile – “He was playing with friends and family one afternoon in the web of narrow lanes that make up the old part of the ancient city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India…so I asked him to smile.”
soiaskedthemtosmile – ‘He was guiding his empty rickshaw one overcast afternoon, down the quiet, narrow, lanes in the old temple town of Vrindavan, in Uttar Pradesh, India… so I asked him to smile.’