Mumbai-based photographer’s work sparks social media outrage

Published Aug 6, 2014, 7:20 am IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
Raj has taken down the photos from his official page
A photo from the photoshoot by Raj Shetye which is allegedly based on the Nirbhaya Gangrape incident.
 A photo from the photoshoot by Raj Shetye which is allegedly based on the Nirbhaya Gangrape incident.

Mumbai: Mumbai-based photographer Raj Shetye’s work, titled The Wrong Turn, has certainly not gone down well with most people. Social media on Tuesday were united in outrage as users slammed Shetye’s work for turning the Delhi gang-rape into a glamour shoot.

And they can be forgiven for the assumption that Shetye’s series has a shocking resemblance. The Wrong Turn depicts a lone girl fighting off men inside a bus and one shot even has her pinned on the floor of the vehicle. It wasn’t long before people started seeing the similarities between the ‘fashion spread’ and details from that December 16 night.

Musician Vishal Dadlani was among those who were loud and clear on Twitter. “Did i just see a fashion-spread depicting the Delhi gang-rape? Disgusting! I hope all associated, die of shame! Insensitive swine!” he wrote.

Heated discussions were also seen on Facebook. In one of the threads, a user pointed out, “So, here we see jewellery instead of intestines, hairspray instead of blood, designer wear instead of .  What did they do to her clothes, does anyone remember? .  And those silly pouts instead of the screams from that horrible night. Some people will exploit anything for their own vanity, won’t they?”

The photographer has now taken down the photos from his official page and has gone on record to say his series is not based or inspired by the crime.

“It’s unfortunate that I am compelled to justify my artistic expression around a social issue. The idea of the shoot was to address the issue of gender and this occurred to me a few years ago. It breaks my heart to see my mother, my friends, my sister constraining themselves to be safe. I have been planning a whole series, and this one happens to be on sexual violence,” said Shetye. But he’s happy that a debate on rape and content has come up again. “If this is the cost to set the ball rolling, I’m okay being the bad guy.”

But here is perhaps why Shetye’s work sparked so much anger. Fashion photographer Rafique Sayed, who also tackles social issues and had done a shoot on the 2002 Mukhtar Mai rape with actress Konkona Sen, explains: “Fashion photography at its core is an illusion, that is tailored to be as far away from reality as possible. You can’t have a girl, dressed in designer wear, depict a victim who was dressed in simple jeans. Also, you can’t tell a story of pain and brutal crime in a fashion shoot. The best thing he could have done was to not make any reference to the rape.”

Meanwhile, photographer Nishant Ratnakar, one of the most vocal critics of Shetye’s work explains: “I find it in bad taste. It actually fails to evoke discomfort. I would have welcomed discomfort, as that could have been a good objective. I wouldn’t burn a bus down to force him to take the project down but I do have the fundamental right to disagree with his work.”