Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
Camera: Abhishek Ranjan
WHAT MAKES THIS ARTIST
PHOTOGRAPH ONLY MEN?
The thing with patriarchy is it not only claws its way into the lives of women but men as well. Men are conditioned to ‘act’ in a certain way, exhibit ‘masculinity’, and live up to societal norms.
Artist Raqeeb Raza is now challenging the entrenched patriarchy in the society. His photographs capture masculinity, intimacy, warmth and sexuality.
Raza focuses on the intricacies of male sexuality and intimate portraits which leave a long lasting impression on your mind.
He started by capturing queer individuals who have been shamed by the society for their bodies and desires. Raza himself had a turbulent childhood and was bullied for his effeminate nature and it was during his college years that he accepted himself and started expressing himself.
@daintystrangersphotos is an Instagram page run by Raqeeb, which turned a year old recently. He uses portraits of male bodies to challenge the notions of sexuality and masochism. From men who struggled with their sexuality and body types, men who were abused in their childhood to cancer survivors, Raza’s photographs tell a striking tale of raw, soft men – a far cry from the ‘mainstream male.’
“We have been conditioned to think that our body represents our personality. And when you are too fat or too thin or just don’t have washboard abs you are not enough. You don’t fit in. You aren’t perfect.”Raqeeb Raza, @daintystrangersphotos
Raza’s work focuses on the beauty of imperfection. The theme in majority of his pictures is about embracing yourself. He says, it was grueling for him to reach this stage as he hated his body for the longest time and with the kind of body issues he faced, he was even afraid to get intimate with someone thinking that it would repel the person and that he would have to face rejection.
His Instagram gallery shows a variety of portraits of men with all body types as well as same-sex male couples, capturing their intimate moments.
“Society’s perspective of a naked body as ‘vulgar’ or only for sexual pleasures, should be demolished. It might not be the mainstream way to do it but I feel there is a necessity to bring this up and start a conversation.”Raqeeb Raza, @daintystrangersphotos
Raza’s photography consumes a lot of time, he says. He sits with the person, drinks tea and chats. The person talks and he photographs them while the subject is talking. Raza believes that this way the subject becomes comfortable and the pictures and story behind it also comes out well. Also, he prefers shooting people in their own spaces.
“I have been modelling for about one, one-and-a-half years and before that I used to be a very, very shy person. Like, I wouldn’t even wear shorts in public. So, the idea of going bare-chested was completely unthinkable for me. And I think, mentally it’s made me a more well-rounded person because nowadays I am not so scared of showing my body and am not scared of my body.”Alexander Lakshman Balakrishnan, Model
The idea of Raza’s erotic art page is inspired by stories of people.
When asked why he doesn’t click women, Raza said that he doesn’t understand women’s bodies so well, to represent it in a way that will effect a change. He feels that he cannot make a change in the kind of photography that always involved women and that’s why he did not approach it.
But All’s Not Fair
Raza faces two major issues with his page, one that people keep blocking his pictures – pictures that are the result of hours of shoot and post-shoot edits. He says he finds it very demotivating when people report his pictures.
Secondly, people also complain about him working with men whose bodies are considered ‘perfect’ in mainstream media, to which Raza says his page has always been about inclusivity and it isn’t fair to show only one side of the coin.
“I am sure all of us have some kind of insecurity vulnerability regarding our own body and how we appear in the society. In a society where we have been judged throughout because of our appearance. I think, it’s very important to start a conversation regarding your vulnerabilities and insecurities and whatever affects your identity. This conversation will not only help you make peace with the fact that you are perfect the way you are but also start a conversation on how and why we need to accept bodies and identities of different types. Let’s start. Let’s start talking about it and let’s start a conversation about everything which is inclusive in the society and which is needed.”
~ Raqeeb Raza