The minute we arrived in India, I was immediately inspired to take photos of the local men… quite simply because they have killer mustaches. And I’m not talking ironic-hipster-chic mustaches from Brooklyn or Portland here. I’m talking centuries-old OG-status mustaches in styles you’d never even dare attempt. In styles you’ve never imagined. In styles you never even thought possible.
But as I started taking the portraits, I also realized just how strong and bold the men’s faces were — far from camera shy, each man’s pose was a confident articulation of not only their awesome ‘stache, but also their unique personality. And so, my intrigue grew and grew and grew as I began to take more and more and more portraits, obsessing over finding the best, most diverse, and confident facial hair in all of India.
A lofty task, but one I was willing to taken on.
So without further adieu, and as a nod to all you Movember participants (a challenge amongst bros to grow a mustache for men’s health), here’s some inspiration for your next shave:
Security officer at the Taj Mahal
The famous Rajasthani curled ‘stache
“I like your mustache, sir. May I take your photograph?” That was my line. Men in India are very proud of their mustaches, and they would often perk up for a portrait. This gentleman was no exception.
When I asked for his portrait, this man first laughed then straighten up, posing like a total boss
This gentleman was delighted to have his portrait taken. For Westerners, having our photo taken is a daily occurrence (often multiple times a day.) For the older generations in a place like India, it’s a rare occurrence. They may only have one or two photos of themselves or their family in their home. Many people (this man included) thanked me for the experience. 13 – This gentleman was definitely a bit crazy, but even crazy can make a great picture.
I followed this gentleman down the narrow street hoping to get his portrait. When he sat down for a chai, I kindly asked. He was a bit leery at first, but then warmed up and allowed me to take his picture. His expression says it all.
I try to capture the dignity within each subject when taking a portrait. I like to have an interaction that is meaningful for both us, however short it may be. I think this translates to more meaningful photography. It’s also diplomatic, it can determine their impression of foreigners.
Namaste from Agra
Police officers in India have some of the best mustaches. In fact, certain precincts give raises to these gentlemen because a great ‘stache demands so much respect from citizens.
This style is popular in Utter Pradesh. It almost looks like an inverse goatee.
This gentleman posed against his green home in Munnar, in the heart of south Indian tea country.
I speak no Hindi. This gentleman spoke no English. Somehow we came to the understanding that I wanted to take his portrait and he wanted some baksheesh (basically a small tip). We took some shots, exchanged some Rupees, and both graciously thanked each other. Dhanyavaad, kind sir.
Striking blue eyes in the holy city of Varanasi
Gopal, our self-proclaimed adopted Indian uncle, and the kindest man in Kerala.