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A Bus Gang Rape Photo Shoot: When ‘Awareness’ Glamourises Rape Culture

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By Dhruv Arora:

So this morning started with a rather unique take on the feminist movement with the launch of a landmark campaign when someone decided to do a one of a kind photoshoot to raise awareness about an issue that is very close to my heart. A fashion photographer and self-proclaimed human rights activist who goes by the name of Raj Shetye put up pictures of his latest photoshoot, which is, for some godforsaken reason, on the ever-so-tasteful theme of a gang-rape in a bus. The photoshoot, aptly titled “The Wrong Turn” (according to the photographer) aims to raise awareness on the issues around caste and sexual harassment by not trying to help much at all, but hey, you know his name now, right?

We are moving into the digital generation where more and more people are getting access to technology and platforms that allow for them to raise their voices on the issues that matter to them the most. When voicing one’s opinions against a social evil, one should at least make sure they put some effort behind ensuring that these opinions aren’t actively advocating for the exact opposite of what we think are the problems that they should’ve been addressing. However, logic and reason are minor hindrances that our wise photographer Mr. Raj seems to have completely avoided.

The result? Why don’t you have a look:

We have all the pictures that were originally at the site that was pulled down, but based on a few valid opinions on whether we should make them available (since the original page has been taken down), we’ve decided to take them off (this post is not about presenting the images, but critiquing them).

Mr. Raj did present his justification on the matter, where he claimed the images are supposed to empower people in some way. Makes perfect sense. Here’s what he had to say:

Buzzfeed’s Rega Jha got in touch with Mr. Raj for a comment, and the visionary had the following words to add:

“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.”

In case you are an inquisitive bunch, like I am, some more homework on the tags that were used on the original page before it was taken down perfectly support the photographer’s justification, much like clothes justify harassment. (Really though, they don’t).

All the images were originally posted on the photographer’s Behance page, which has since been taken down. It seems that the photographer’s justification was not enough to convince the photographer himself. Or perhaps the photographer decided he had raised all the awareness he set out to reach by this selfless act. Either way, in case you want to know what the page originally looked like, you can check out the screenshots here and here. Not sure if the intended awareness was raised, but the photographer definitely seems to have taken “The Wrong Turn”.

To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @thedhruvarora

You must be to comment.
  1. Subir

    Dude don’t sense opportunities and make unnecessary stories of them. If you must know the art of protesting get a few tips on writing first. This was a social media story, someone protested and the guy took it off and the matter ended there. There does not need to be an article about it so that search engines crawl names relevant / irrelevant names. And websites like youth ki awaz benefit from it.

    Now tell me, as an advertising guy.. if I was looking for a picture of a Kidnap situation.. would I not go on a website and type ‘Kidnap’ to lead me to a direct result? that’s why the tags are important. So while I may see fault in his concept.. as a digital user I do not see fault in his tagging.

    1. Dhruv Arora

      Thanks for adding your opinion here. Here’s mine:

      How do you define a protest?

      verb: protest; express an objection to what someone has said or done.

      It would seem that the whole point of protesting against something would be to denounce the fact that it was, at some point, something that was said. It does, indeed, have to do with whether the statement that was said has been retracted or not, but the larger implications of a protest have to do with denouncing the idea itself, not just to the person in question who may have said, but to the world. If we are protesting against an idea, the intention would be to denounce it and ensure people find out about why the voice was raised against it. This not only ensures that the statement in question is retracted, but also provides critique for people who may be seeking it. As you mentioned, this is where the “tags” come in to play.

      Your comment is very important to me, because I identify as a gender rights activist who has been to numerous protests for this reason, as well as someone who works very closely with social media. I, however, wholeheartedly disagree with your sentiment and this comment is a protest against the idea that, if at some point you disagree with something, shut up.

      Thanks for your opinion, though!

    2. Prashansa

      Please tell me how ‘hot’ ‘sexy’ ‘male’ ‘revenge’ AND ‘gay’ is relavant to the ‘issue’ he’s raising awareness about. As Divya said ‘There’s thinking outside the box, then there’s thinking like a douchebag (for lack of a better word)…we can all guess which one this idea belongs to.’

  2. Haifa

    May be our wise photographer meant a Pro-Rape Awareness !!!
    I didn’t know rapes could be glamorized till I saw this.. Thanks Mr.Wise

  3. Divya

    As an artist, one realizes that not everyone will agree with your work of art. But, you still have to be strong and stick with your expressions.

    For this Mr. Raj to take down his own work is just proof that he realized the stupidity & complete insensitivity and disrespect he’s brought about the injustice of rape. That he took inspiration from a devastating rape incident and got inspiration for a fashion photo shoot…really?! Is he so dumb that he has the inabilty to draw inspiration from nothing else? There’s thinking outside the box, then there’s thinking like a douchebag (for lack of a better word)…we can all guess which one this idea belongs to.

    Anyways Arora…great article. I agree completely with everything you had to say.

  4. prathyusha

    Agree with all you said. But still think tat you shouldn’t even have screen shots of the page here. One photograph is enough to prove the act. More looks like indirect publicity.

  5. Nim

    You could see it in two ways… Either you can look at it as a way of pulling the crowd’s eye into this issue in a versatile manner … a rape is a rape even if he/she wears 100 rupees street patialas or 400 thousand worth burberry trench… and the tags maybe used for pulling in more crowd… nobosy searches for #rape or #threesomerape .. thats sadistic … maybe he used those tags coz those are actually the most popular on the web ….. its a work of art… i dont care what anyone says… you can look at a piece of art in a million ways and it can speak a million words… the only thing is the one who looks… should look in the right manner

  6. pkmahanand

    Mr Raj is a photographer and is condemned for trying to recreate a horrible event that shook the nation. Let’s put aside his message, whatever it may be. He is basically expressing something through his expertise, right?

    What if I am a filmmaker and making a movie on the same event? Would I be condemned too?

    1. Prashansa

      Really?! Did you see the tags under which he had filed his photos?
      ‘hot, sexy, kidnap, revenge, love, male, kidnap, greed, gay’.
      These words show that he was after sensationalization and nothing else. Gay?! How does that even make sense?
      A lot of people think they’re creative, they are not.

  7. Prashant Kaushik

    Worse than this happens.

    I have frequently seen highly educated and elite intellectuals pushing their particular ideologies on the pretext that those will help to stop rapes.

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