In our country, what is measured ‘beautiful’ is often dictated by what’s seen on giant billboards, by advertisements that sell products to approved gender roles that are predefined and stab at our deepest insecurities – and most importantly, by our society whose minds have been shaped to accept it all, no questions asked.
Thankfully, the dawn of social media has enforced us to open boxes and minds that were closed off for far too long, empowering and showcasing those who go beyond the lines previously closing them in.
Holding frail pastel flowers against his dual-shaded skin that’s decorated in matching hand-painted leaves and flowers, messy locks of hair flowing free – Shantanu Gosavi caught our eye in portraits shot by one of the amateur photographers Arka Patra in ‘Portraits of Men’.
Gosavi has Vitiligo (Leucoderma) that is, to put it simply, a skin condition that causes the loss of skin colour, causing a patched skin tone. In the beginning, Gosavi said, that it was something that he was self-conscious about as it took time to accept this new change to his appearance, but his friends and family never made him feel that it was something different. ‘Rather, it was easier to accept it because of them,’ he tells us.
For many people, having an apparent, visual and external condition such as Vitiligo comes with its insecurities. Gosavi exuding poise said, ‘It’s a natural talent I suppose! Jokes apart, I guess that’s because the photographers make the environment very comfortable.’
Recalling his first assignation with modelling he shares, ‘Modelling wasn’t something I always wanted to do but also who would want to leave the opportunity if given? The first ever shoot I did was for my college senior’s assignment (Fashion Communication Student) in 2015. The first professional shoot I did was for the brand Arvind Ltd. It was my first studio shoot in the year 2016.’
Eccentric he may be in contrast to the models you find walking down the slope; it is this originality and sole inventive appearance that is being championed with the rise of the digital age and a new flourish of free artists, agencies, labels.
Social media has shaped a gap for new aesthetics, various identities, models and people of all genders to be in the public eye and maybe even modify what society has professed as beautiful and ‘acceptable’ in the past.
Gosavi agrees with the emotion and says it’s an exciting happening to witness. ‘The work these exceptional models and artists are doing is wonderful, I don’t know whether they are affecting the standards set mainstream media, but I surely feel this is the future, maybe.’
The core echo of self-assurance and acceptance through all of Gosavi’s work so far has rung clear to people across the board.
Soon we may finally be transitioning into a setting where weight, gender, complexion and age are no longer bearings on beauty. Though there is a way to go before India kicks its bad practice and obsession with European stands of beauty with skin-whitening products, among other things, we’re seeing a steady shift in the climate, one that has been long late.