How One Photographer Is Capturing Happiness across the World through Portraits

Utkarsh Narang is a Delhi-based photographer who believes that a life is well lived only when one acknowledges one’s ability to contribute to the society in one’s own distinct way.

When we spoke to him about the motivation behind starting his photography initiative titled Project Happiness, which attempts to capture the optimistic attitude of people he meets on the streets, he said, “I want to be a billionaire! And by that I mean not in terms of money, but I wish to touch a billion lives! I also believe that we live in an attention-deficit society today, where people do not value the little things in life. They don’t look within themselves for happiness, and I wish to change that.”

Utkarsh works at the Institute for Personal Leadership as a production manager. His job is a special calling for him, and it allows him to continue working on this Happiness Project as well.

He said, “The Happiness Project is not a part-time initiative but an everyday practice and commitment to bring smiles to people’s faces and touch lives.”

Like any other photographer, he does get intimated at the prospect of approaching strangers and asking them really personal details about their lives. But, he believes that strangers tend to open up easily if the photographer gets close to them with a good sense of humour and empathy.

He believes that it is important for a photographer to be authentic and attentive.

Utkarsh gave us a basic run-down of how he manages to get people to spill intimate details about their lives. He said, “I start the conversation by greeting them with a smile and a positive body language. I keep a distance and take a stance which does not seem imposing. Then I introduce myself and tell them that I am not stalking them, but wish to know their views on happiness for a project that I am doing. And I add a reassurance that if they don’t want to be disturbed then I will just walk away.”

This sensitive manner of approaching a subject often has big pay-offs. There are many moments when he has been moved to speechlessness after interacting with his subjects. He told us about some of them, “On day 66, I met a person in a mall in Gurgaon. We had a 20-minute long conversation and then, in the end, we hugged each other! He even wrote a poem for my project on happiness.

On the 82nd day, a cleaner at the Delhi airport shared a positively happy story with me. As I was walking away, he told me how he had lost both his children a few months ago. I was moved by his resilience.”

A day before we decided to interview him, he told us that he was travelling to New York so he could capture stories and portraits of happiness. When we asked him about that experience, he said, “It is the same as in India! Human beings are one all across. We live in a global society. All a person needs is love, respect and attention. When you meet someone, make them feel that they are the most important people in your life.”

Utkarsh started this project on July 1st 2o16 and intends to finish working on it by July 1st 2017; he wants to document 365 days of happiness.

He also does not plan on monetising his current project because he sees it as a form of self-love.

When we asked him if he has a message for our readers, who also actively seek inspiring stories, he had this to say – “I want to tell everyone that life has so many beautiful little things and they need your full attention. Your relationships in life are valuable. Each one of us aspires to grow financially, but that is not where the real value lies. Do something that first brings a smile to your face and then to others.

Your time on earth is limited, so live each day feeling inspired!”

Visit Utkarsh’s photography page to know more!

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