"Storytelling is essential to our survival — it’s part coping mechanism, part self-expression and part imagination, in addition to so much more. By supporting these incredible creatives and helping them continue to do what inspires them, while also bringing art into the world, we’re able to collectively break boundaries, break stereotypes and confidently push our global visual language forward.” Guy Merrill, Global Head of Art at Getty Images.
By challenging negative stereotypes around Asian male identity and masculinity, BA (Hons) Creative Direction for Fashion graduate, Hidhir Badaruddin, has taken the industry by storm in recent months with their ongoing photo series entitled 'Younglawa'. After being crowned winner of the Getty Images Creative Bursary $10,000 grant, we caught up with Hidhir to hear about the process of securing this funding and where they hope to take their work in 2021.
Congratulations on this amazing achievement! How did this come about?
I came across the opportunity through Antwaun Sargent's Twitter page, a writer and curator of The New Black Vanguard book, who I have been following for quite some time now. I'm generally not someone to enter competitions, but the opportunity presented itself that day when the post about it appeared on my Twitter feed, and I thought why not apply for it.
How was the application process?
It required us to submit a body of work (existing or now) that had an element of storytelling which visually represented us, the creator. As a photographer, I already had a photo series in the works, Younglawa, which was part of my final major project exploring Asian masculinity. On top of that, there needed to be a short essay on the intention and inspiration of the body of work. I condensed Younglawa into a PDF presentation, and submitted it. I was surprised to find out that out of over 250 applicants across the world, that I had come out on top to claim Getty’s first prize grant prize.
Tell us about your work – what does it represent? What story are you telling?
With my photo series entitled Younglawa (a play of words between English and Malay which translates to ‘(someone) that is beautiful’ or ‘the beautiful’), I hope to portray my vision for a new generation of Asian masculinity. I hope to challenge the stereotype of the Asian male and celebrate their youth, tenderness and soul. I want the world to know how diverse and multifaceted Asian men can be, celebrating all shades and sexualities.
Growing up, I don’t recall the last time I ever saw anyone that looked like me – a brown Asian male – fronting fashion campaigns or films within mainstream media. Even back home in Singapore, as diverse as it is, brown Asians were always in the background, in supporting roles and rarely at the forefront of anything. There was always this preference for lighter-skinned people, and this was really evident in the media growing up.
Another thing I noticed is that as much as the media is beginning to become more inclusive, the representation of Asian identity is still mostly one look, which is light-skinned East Asians -particularly Chinese or Korean people. As a brown Asian, this is quite unfortunate: brown Asians such as South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis) and Southeast Asians (Malays, Filipinos) have always been overlooked. With my photo series Younglawa, I want to change this narrative, and show how diverse and multifaceted Asian men can be, that brown Asians are also part of the Asian identity as much as East Asians.
Also a huge congratulations on securing the UAL International Start-Up Visa with the help of Graduate Futures. What are your plans after your big win and for 2021?
I hope to be able to create more work that aids to further the representation of LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities through photography. I’ve always believed that diversity should be both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Ideally, I hope to be able to work and collaborate on projects for my skills and capability, and not just seen as a checklist or a trend for a brand or someone to have diverse ethnics or sexualities on board a project.
Ultimately, I hope to elevate Younglawa into a wider scale; possibly through a book or exhibition. Hopefully once things get back to normal, being able to showcase Younglawa, and allowing for people to physically experience the images both in Singapore and the UK would be the goal. Something to empower young Asian men of all backgrounds within fashion and in the media.
How did you find graduating through a pandemic?
It has been an unprecedented year for everyone. Graduating amidst a global pandemic has been tough, especially when you’re about to enter the creative industry. We didn’t have a graduation ceremony, so it almost felt as if I haven’t fully graduated. Despite it all, it’s made me more resilient to learn and adapt to this new way of life.
What would you advice be for anyone joining BA Creative Direction for Fashion at LCF?
Be proactive, constantly create, and be open to collaborating with people you don’t know. The course gives an insight to many different disciplines within fashion communication. I wanted to learn more than what I knew, and the skills of art direction and interface design, has widely benefited me even as a photographer because it is through these skills that you get to communicate your ideas and set yourself apart.