Another week, another tasteless fashion shoot gone viral. This time it's Mumbai photographer Raj Shetye's fashion editorial, titled "The Wrong Turn", featuring a glamorous model in a cocktail dress being grabbed on a bus by several men.
There are fewer issues more contentious, sensitive or tragic than what happened to Jyoti Singh, a student who was gang-raped on a public bus in Delhi in December 2012. She died from her injuries 13 days later in a Singapore hospital. The incident sparked nationwide protests, legislative reform and debate on all strata of Indian society. So, it is no surprise that once Shetye's shoot went viral, outrage poured forth from social media in India and around the world.
Some of the images seem harmless enough, and are of several models posing in the bus; others, however, show a female model in an obvious state of distress being grabbed at by several of the male models.
Shetye, however, has claimed his shoot had nothing to do with the Delhi incident, and was conceived before it happened. Yet, even if this is true, you wonder how he could have failed to see the implications of publishing the shoot.
"This is in no way meant to glamorise the act, which was very bad," Shetye told buzzfeed.com. "It's just a way of throwing light on it."
This follows Franca Sozzani's tasteless "domestic abuse" fashion shoot in Vogue Italia , which also sparked controversy and disgust. She defended the shoot as a way of bringing attention to the issue. Shetye, remarkably, claimed the same thing in a letter to The Independent, saying that the shoot was inspired by the restrictions and prejudice he saw around him.
"It's unfortunate that I am compelled to justify my artistic expression around a social issue," he told The Independent, adding he was glad he had sparked debate on the issue.
"If the cost to set the ball rolling here is that I have to be the bad guy, then so be it."
It's hard to tell if Shetye is suffering from stupidity or ignorance to think that his "contribution" to the issue of rape or general sexism and violence against women in India is constructive in anyone's world. Idiotic at best, disgusting and disrespectful at worst, seems to be the sentiment online.
Artistic expression, in this case, is limited by it being a glamorous fashion shoot, as argued in the Vogue Italia case. People are questioning what good this shoot does. These ill-conceived, heavy handed attempts to bring social issues to light are often not malicious in intent, but increasingly exasperating to onlookers worldwide, even in the industry.