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„I want to show there is more diversity and a wider spectrum of Asian identities within the Asian community“

The issue of underrepresentation of brown Asians and queer identities leaves people like Hidhir often lost and struggling with stereotypes. He decided the place to start and make a change is everywhere he is. Through sharing his experience and telling stories through his photography he is changing the visual media narrative – aiming to normalise the presence of Asian identities of different origins and sexualities in the media cosmos.

In 2020, the London College of Fashion graduate went viral with his photo series Younglawa, capturing the multiplicity of Asian masculinity and the diversity of Asian heritage. His vision makes him one of the disruptors, constructing a more inclusive and diverse industry for everyone, everywhere.

Colourism does exist! Even in the Asian community where lighter skin tones are favoured. This means Chinese or Korean or any lighter people were more present in the media. This made me realize I want to change the visual narrative.

Hidhir Badaruddin

The idea for the series was triggered when I was at a house party in London. Someone I was talking to asked me: “Oh what kind of Asian are you?” and I answered: “I am Indian and Malay”. The persons were reacting kind of confused. They did not want to tell me, but I could tell in a sense that they might only see a lot of people from China, Japan or Korea. However, what you see in fashion, at Versace for example, is that brands try introducing more diversity through Asian and black models. But when you see the Asian models – they are all very fair skin. Darker skin people are never really given that platform and this is what I wanted to tackle with Younglawa. But obviously, the series got cut short because of Covid. I was lucky that I shot four or five boys when I was in Singapore in December 2019.

I felt like there is space for the series. And even though it never got finished, Dazed and Face magazine picked it up. That really opened my mind to explore this further.

I am now actually in the works of creating a book and making an exhibition for Younglawa. Maybe in a year’s time. I don’t want to rush the process. And also because I got the £10k Getty Images Grant which I did not see coming. So, this opened my eyes and made me realize, there is something here, people seeing something in your work.

I created my photo series because I wanted to show there is more diversity and a wider spectrum of Asian identities within the Asian community. There are Indian, Pakistanis, Malays, Filipinos and I think people forget.

My plan now is to take it to the U.K., photographing Asian identities here but also, taking it back home again and show the juxtaposition between the two – geographically. Because they are in different locations but they are all Asian men. At the end of the day I just want to show people we are all the same.
And we exist.

No matter where we are from.