1. Mumbai-based fashion photographer Raj Shetye released his photo series The Wrong Turn last week. It depicts a lone Indian woman surrounded by men on a bus, fending off their advances.
2. “It is not based on Nirbhaya,” Shetye told BuzzFeed in a phone call, when asked if this series was meant to depict the December 2012 New Delhi gang rape.
He denied attempting to depict the exact scene of that incident — referred to as “Nirbhaya,” which is a Hindi word for “fearless” and a pseudonym given to the victim — although the similarities are difficult not to notice.
“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.”
When asked why he chose to depict this scene through a fashion photo shoot, Shetye responded that it is the only way he knew how.
“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.”
3. “This is in no way meant to glamorize the act, which was very bad,” Shetye told BuzzFeed. “It’s just a way of throwing light on it.”
Shetye added that the idea for the shoot struck him two years ago, but it took several months to execute because he “didn’t want to create something irresponsible.”
He also clarified that while the garments worn by the models are all made by top designers, none of them have been credited publicly because the intent of this shoot is not commercial gain. “The concept is my baby,” he said, “and the aim is to create art that will gather some reaction in society.”
4. “The message I would like to give is that it doesn’t matter who the girl is,” he said. “It doesn’t depend on which class she belonged in — it can happen to anyone.”
“We stay in a society where rich people roam in cars, and poor people who roam in public transport are in danger,” he continued. “It was my intent to mix these two things which are pretty apart from each other and make aesthetically strong images about it.”
5. Several people have pointed out — and are outraged by — the images’ thematic similarities to the Nirbhaya case:
8. This is a screenshot of the comment thread under photographer Fabien Charuau’s Facebook post about The Wrong Turn.
9. Shetye allegedly defended himself against critics in this Facebook comment:
10. But nearly nobody’s buying it:
14. Some people don’t care either way:
15. And a lot of people are talking about it:
16. When asked about such reactions, Shetye told BuzzFeed that he just feels satisfied to have started a conversation.
“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.”
The pictures were originally posted on Shetye’s Behance page, but appear to have since been taken down.