Knowledge Center

Wrong turn photoshoot analysis

Nothing makes an artist feel doomed in the age of social media validation like not receiving a strong response to their work. Which probably explains all the content that comes under heat for being ‘socially offensive’.

But how often do you see these discussions ever reaching a conclusion, what with the artist firmly denying any hurtful intentions and the other side insisting on it being otherwise?

The ideal fix? You need a relatively objective approach. And perhaps, a quick Semiotic analysis can be just what you’re looking for.

Here’s putting it to test through an example from the fashion industry.

Remember Raj Shetye’s photoshoot ‘Wrong Turn’?

Audiences seemed nothing but justifiably offended when it was released in 2014. His work was judged distasteful for ‘glamorising’ the 2012 Nirbhaya case.

Shetye claimed that he meant to highlight the issue of violence against women, and that his work was in no way related to the case. But why didn’t that seem like a convincing argument?

Leave aside the social implications for a minute and consider the photo in isolation of the 2012 case. It might prove helpful to consider the first image alongside another well-known example with a similar subject; a snap of domestic violence witnessed in real-time by photographer Donna Ferrato.

Despite claiming to comment on the issue of violence against women, Shetye’s image doesn’t deliver convincingly. In contrast, Ferrato’s work immediately establishes the desired meaning. Could it be because the theme isn’t sufficiently supported by the elements of the first photo?

With the second, the act is foregrounded. The contrast between the menace and the ordinary setup makes it so. However, the violence in the first image is overpowered by fashion aesthetics; your eye gets distracted by glamorously dressed individuals who look like typical models.

Next, the facelessness of the second image narrows focus onto the struggle of the woman. But with faces visible in the first, the attention gets divided between the struggle and the response.

And there is plenty else that differentiates the first image from the second, despite both going for a similar theme. The first is ‘meant’ to suggest women-centric violence, but it is the second that tangibly lands the idea for you.

Continue to break down both images into signs and analysing the common ones, and you will surely be able to pull out plenty more such observations yourself.