A fresh starter to travel after getting his first passport stamp at the ripe age of 26, Manchester-based photographer Mike Hawkins has been going up for lost time ever since, visiting six continents and setting his feet to work trekking from Kilimanjaro to Everest and Patagonia.
In his wonderful series Smiling Eyes, Mike reveals us how a smile and a bumbling effort to speak the local language enables him to make friends and attempts to catch their enthusiasm and happiness for life through his lens.
Mike describes: “I’ve always been fascinated by photography. As I began dreaming and plotting my first escape abroad, I began browsing all the Lonely Planet guidebooks. And just like that, stuck in suburbia, I was hooked – by their pictures that evoked all the feeling and wonder of exotic lands and cultures.
“Now, I’ve as big a weakness for stunning landscapes and architecture shots as anyone – but my mind always remembered the portraits. Two people, who could connect with a shared moment across cultures – helping me tackle local street food (especially fried giant grasshoppers – eat the body but never, ever the head) to steering me to the right path with a grin and a wave as I got a bit lost off the beaten track.
“Now, I’ve become a bonafide photography geek – bringing my dSLR everywhere I go. With digital photography, snapping a picture can now be a shared experience, as both photographer and subject can instantly share the results. And I always email or print and mail copies to them as soon as I can.”
These ‘Smiling Eyes’ are some of Mike’s favorite travel portraits. He adds: “I’m hoping they might inspire other potential travelers to go beyond their comfort zone… to get up, grab their passports, and just go!”
All images courtesy of Mike Hawkins