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Indian Fashion Editorial Depicting a Woman Being Attacked on a Bus Sparks Major Outrage

They say life influences art, but whether that “art” should be produced is another story. Raj Shetye, a Mumbai-based photographer, recently published an editorial called “The Wrong Turn,” which has managed to upset quite a few people. The spread depicts an Indian woman being assaulted on a bus by a pack of men — it’s hard not to draw comparisons between the shoot and the tragic death of the 23-year-old woman known as “Nirbhaya,” who was raped and murdered by four men on a bus in December 2012. The story shook India and also the rest of the world. 

But despite the marked situational similarities, Shetye says that the shoot was not inspired by what happened that tragic day. Hmm…whatever you say, dude. The photographer adds that the series is “in no way meant to glamorize the act…It’s just a way of throwing light on it.” Considering that the event itself sparked an international outcry, we’re not sure if this sort of light needs to be thrown on the issue at all. Shetye admitted it took awhile for him to do the shoot in the first place, telling BuzzFeed that he had the concept in mind, but waited to follow through with it because the event was so fresh in the international consciousness.

Shetye hopes the shoot will illuminate the danger and hardships many poor Indians face on public transportation. By using a well-dressed, seemingly upper class woman in the shoot, Shetye wanted to convey that sexual assault can happen to any woman, regardless of social standing. “We stay in a society where rich people roam in cars, and poor people who roam in public transport are in danger,” he said. “It was my intent to mix these two things which are pretty apart from each other and make aesthetically strong images about it.”

While we are all for raising awareness about sexual assault, it seems a little contradictory to claim not to glamorize something when you’re portraying it in fashion photography. Let’s keep it real, fashion shoots are by their nature glamorous. The expensive clothes, the hair, the makeup — it’s all there to create an aspirational mood and there is nothing aspirational about being viciously attacked by a pack of men, even if you’re dressed in luxury duds. There are about a million other ways to illuminate the problem of sexual assault, and this effort seems particularly misguided. Bottom line: Fashion photography is not the best medium through which to illustrate tragedies. Furthermore, to say that this series was not based on the Nirbhaya disaster is a little disingenuous, especially since Shetye notes that he got the idea for the shoot two years ago, but waited to actually follow through with it.

The pictures were available on Behance.net, but since the outcry, they’ve been removed. BuzzFeed still has the images up on its site.

What do you think? Is this artistic or just downright offensive?

[via BuzzFeed