Date
17 August 2020
Reading Time
7 minute read
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Capturing the multiplicity of brown Asian masculinity, Hidhir Badaruddin aims to change the narrative

Meet the Singapore-born, London College of Fashion graduate documenting a new generation of Asian men. 

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Date
17 August 2020
Reading Time
7 minute read

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“As a brown Asian male, being able to tell my own story or vision was important to me,” explains Hidhir Badaruddin, “photography is just an outlet for me to do this.” A recent graduate from London College of Fashion, photography wasn’t always the obvious mode of expression for Hidhir. He grew up in Singapore where he found that “a career within the creative industry wasn’t an ideal path for a young Asian man”. But with time, this couldn’t stop him. He would go on to explore the nuanced multiplicity of Asian male identity through the medium, examining the gaps between the Western presumptions of such an identity while using his own experiences of self-discovery too. 

From a young age, he would visually capture anything and everything that caught his eye. Over time, he became more attuned to how people (amongst other things) change with circumstance and age. He developed a fondness for recording such moments on the cusp of transition, moments which could never be replicated again. This soon became second nature and in turn, the photography followed as a natural progression for Hidhir, leading him onto the path we are celebrating today. 

His interest in photography flourished when he came to London, moving in tandem beside his other diverging investigations of cultural identity, sexuality and gender. “Being in London but coming from a different cultural background allowed me to be proud of who I am, more than I ever allowed myself to be back home in Singapore. I began to understand my sexuality and my ethnic identity and I translated that into my photography, just as my view of the world changed.” 

Now he presents this worldly perspective in his striking portfolio centred on portraiture. Hidhir’s images are subtly framed by both the sitter’s and his own vantage point; thoughtful composites highlighting a range of personalities that don’t align with the canon. It’s an extensive portfolio for someone just graduated, a body of work which an artist with twice his experience would be pleased to present. Speaking of his process and journey in making this work, below, we hear from Hidhir himself on the work he’s produced and what he hopes for the future. 

GalleryHidhir Badaruddin: Younglawa

“With my photo series Younglawa, I want to change this narrative, and show how diverse and multifaceted Asian men can be.”

Hidhir Badaruddin

It's Nice That: I’m blown away by all your work, especially your series Younglawa documenting a new generation of Asian men. Not only is it aesthetically striking, the series really communicates the diversity of Asian heritage and the multiplicity of Asian masculinity that is often ignored by Western culture. Talk us through your creative process and thinking in bringing this series to life?

Hidhir Badaruddin: 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 in the fashion industry, that is beginning to become more inclusive, the representation of Asian identity is still mostly one look. Light-skinned East Asians particularly Chinese or Korean people somehow represent Asians as a whole.

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. I put the issue at the forefront of my work, ultimately making diversity prevalent.

Above

Hidhir Badaruddin: Younglawa

GalleryHidhir Badaruddin: Younglawa

“As a queer brown Asian male, I’ve found myself excluded from the narrative of what people in the West perceive to be Asian masculinity.”

Hidhir Badaruddin

INT: Your work considers both Western and Eastern points of view in its exploration of Asian masculinity and what mainstream culture portrays it as – but do you have a particular audience in mind when you create your work? Is there a particular demographic you’d like to target with your work? 

HB: Growing up in Singapore and moving to London allowed me to have both Western and Eastern points of view. My photography reflects the inclusive vision that challenges Eurocentric beauty standards, where light skin or features have been largely favoured. My photography is directed to the representation of LGBTQ+ and BAME communities, but ultimately my goal is for my work to reach a wider audience. Normalising the presence of Asian identities of different shades and sexualities in the media is one of my main goals. 

As a queer brown Asian male, I’ve found myself excluded from the narrative of what people in the West perceive to be Asian masculinity. Being able to see yourself, your community or identity portrayed is so important – especially for the younger generations growing up right now. It should never be a checklist or a trend to have diverse ethnics or sexualities. I’ve always believed that diversity should be both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. I wanted to create a photo series which explores both the themes of Asian identity and masculinity, so what better way to express this than through visually capturing it myself.

GalleryHidhir Badaruddin: Younglawa

GalleryHidhir Badaruddin: Younglawa

INT: You’ve mentioned an intention to expand the Younglawa series over here, photographing Asian boys in London. Are there particular concepts or techniques that you’re eager to further explore or try out?

HB: Younglawa is an ongoing series, photographing my vision for a new generation of Asian masculinity. I started photographing boys from back home in Singapore, and always knew that I wanted to take the series to London, to visually explore the geographical differences whilst recognising the similarities of Asian identity between the two places. People often forget that just because the media always shows the UK in a Eurocentric light, there is still so much diversity in the everyday. 

I would like to create a platform with the photos, in the form of a zine or visual fashion calendar inspired by the yearly Pirelli calendars. I also thought to interview and speak with the boys about their experiences with Asian identity while exploring their masculinity would add more insight to the series. It would allow people to have a better understanding and connect with the series on a more personal level. There have been plans to photograph more boys and to expand the series further, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, everything has been put on hold. I guess it’s somehow been a blessing in disguise. I’m able to step back and reexamine how I would like the series to grow.

Above

Hidhir Badaruddin: Roshaante

GalleryHidhir Badaruddin: Carrie Stacks

“I quickly realised that if I wanted to learn more, I had to learn outside of university.”

Hidhir Badaruddin

INT: What's the most valuable lesson you learned during your time at university?

HB: Gaining knowledge and experience through working with creatives I admire in the industry taught me so much. Waiting on a brief to be handed out to me in class had only its limitations. I quickly realised that if I wanted to learn more, I had to learn outside of university. Working with my peers during university has been incredibly valuable. Collaborative projects or simply gaining feedback from my peers has definitely shaped my thought process. You can get so caught up in your own thoughts especially with creative work. I think being open to hearing different opinions – and knowing how to process them – is vital.

GalleryHidhir Badaruddin

Left

Jamie Windust

Right

Betty

GalleryHidhir Badaruddin

Above
Left

Jamie Windust

Right

Betty

Above

Betty

INT: Speaking of the future, what would be your dream project to work on, and with who? 

HB: This is a very tough question for me as a recent graduate as I would love to explore every possibility I can get my hands on. I feel like a dream project for me would be to expand my photo series Younglawa into a bigger platform, something to empower young Asian men of all backgrounds in fashion or in the media. Prior to coming to London, I’ve always been a huge fan of Jonathan Anderson’s work with Loewe and his namesake brand J. W. Anderson. I love how he pushes gender norms in fashion. It would be amazing to work with him someday. I would love to work with pop artist Troye Sivan on a visual project exploring gender diversity and challenge masculinity in pop culture. He has always been such a prominent queer figure for me growing up.  

The Graduates 2020 continued!

This year, we were so overwhelmed by the quality of work submitted by graduates,
we decided to showcase another 20 of the next generation’s top talent.

Click here to meet them!

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Pinterest is thrilled to sponsor the bright creatives in The Graduates. Pinterest is where people go to find inspiration and create a life they love. From interview wardrobe ideas to cocktail mixes, Pinterest is there to help realise your ideas from the epic to the everyday.

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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