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The Wrong Turn: Trivialising Dec 16 Rape

The Wrong Turn: Trivialising Dec 16 Rape
The Wrong Turn: Trivialising Dec 16 Rape

A Mumbai-based fashion photographer released a photo series 'The Wrong Turn' depicting a
fashionably dressed glamourous young woman, and two men, who are shown pushing away a third.

Raj Shetye / Via behance.net

The photographs were published on Raj Shetye's Behance page on July 26 but have since been taken down:

Raj Shetye / Via behance.net

Raj Shetye / Via behance.net

Raj Shetye / Via behance.net

Raj Shetye / Via behance.net

This is how it came to be.

To those who saw it, the series seemed not just to be at least loosely based on the December 16, 2012 incident in New Delhi when a paramedic student was brutally gang raped on a moving bus, an incident that shook the whole country, but also to be trivialising the serious subject.

So when news broke on social media today, the reaction on Twitter was overwhelmingly one of outrage:

"It is not based on Nirbhaya," the photographer, Raj Shetye, insisted to Buzzfeed, referring to the fictitious name given to the Delhi braveheart.

The similarities, as many commentators pointed out, were too difficult not to notice, and when asked about the similarities, he told Buzzfeed:

“But being a part of society and being a photographer, that topic moves me from inside,” he continued. “I stay in a society where my mother, my girlfriend, my sister are out there and something like this can happen to them also.”

“Being a photographer, the only medium I can communicate in is photos. For me, its as simple as that. It’s art. Making movies, writing articles, making a poem — these are all ways of addressing the topic. Being a fashion photographer, this is what I can do best.”

“This is in no way meant to glamorize the act, which was very bad...It’s just a way of throwing light on it.”

In a telephonic interview to IBNLive, Shetye said,

"I wanted to throw light on Indian patriarchy and a male dominated society. I actually was using the photoshoot to highlight women's empowerment and lack of safety in India. It's not true that I used the Nirbhaya incident to create awareness. This is my depiction of the current situation using a medium I know and can communicate well in. Consider this. I did with photography what a writer would do if he had to write about that incident."

This is the official explanation by the photographer of the Nirbhaya shoot (Raj Shetye) as sent to a friend on FB. pic.twitter.com/qJveHT907K

— Suprateek Chatterjee (@SupraMario) August 5, 2014

But, of course, there was no explanation for why the series was tagged thus:

Despite this, Shetye managed to sound very righteous to Buzzfeed:

“On a personal level, too, I got many reactions. On my Facebook, from my friends. It makes me feel satisfied about my work — at least the work I did is so impactful that I’m able to shed some light on this. I don’t feel happy, but it makes me feel satisfied. That whatever I’ve tried to communicate is being communicated.”

It was only when the outrage made other media channels chase him down that the photographs were finally taken down, and he told the CNN-IBN:

"I did not want to glorify the Nirbhaya incident, this isn't even about that incident. I am a responsible person. Why would I do something that is in bad taste?...I admit this has taken a wrong direction and we are now doing damage control."

Jitin Gulati who features in the photo series apologised on Twitter on behalf of Shetye:

In the end, as a Twitter user succinctly summed it up:

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