The photograph shows a glamourous woman struggling to get out of the clutches of two men in a bus. Another photograph in the same bus shows the woman pushing away two men. It's obvious what the images allude to: the gang-rape of a paramedic student on a moving bus in Delhi on December 16 two years ago.
Photographer Raj Shetye's fashion shoot is an obvious reference to the gruesome Delhi gang-rape incident. (Photo courtesy: Model-actor Jitin Gulati's profile on Behance)
The gang-rape shook up India; the protests against it almost threatened the government and it led to reforms in laws on crimes against women. It's a crime which still, two years later, troubles and shocks people.
That's the reason when photographer Raj Shetye's images from a photo shoot called 'The Wrong Turn' were published on the website Behance on July 26 the outrage on social media was immediate.
"It (the photo shoot) is not based on Nirbhaya," Shetye told Buzzfeed, referring to the fictitious name given to the Delhi gang-rape victim.
"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," Shetye told IBNLive over phone.
Shetye allegedly defended himself against critics in this Facebook comment:
However, the photos were taken down from Behance on Tuesday. Model-actor Jitin Gulati, one of the men who featured in 'The Wrong Turn' series, tweeted to say that photos weren't intended to glorify an "intolerable act like rape". He apologised, tweeting on Shetye's behalf too.
French photographer Fabien Charuau shared pictures of the photoshoot on his wall saying "This is so f*$#ing moronic". However, in the comment thread he wrote "In a twisted way, this series shows how photography is such a powerful communication tool. Unintended by the photographer, we have a strong depiction of the ills of our society: the complacency of the male population towards the plight of our women, and the physical domination and control of the women. (The shot where Pooja is on the bus floor between the pantless legs makes me retch) Pixels by pixels it's all there."
Did the photos have a chance of creating awareness about crimes against women? People on social media clearly didn't think so.
Bollywood music director Vishal Dadlani tweeted: "Did i just see a fashion-spread depicting the Delhi gangrape of Nirbhaya? Disgusting!I hope all associated, die of shame! Insensitive swine!"
Here are few more reactions: