EN­COUNTER SPE­CIAL­IST

SHIVARAJU HASN’T QUIT HIS DAY JOB OF A PO­LICE­MAN. IN FACT, HIS BEATS AS A COP AND A PHO­TOG­RA­PHER OVER­LAP A GREAT DEAL

India Today - - LEISURE - —Chinki Sinha

Known these days as “Cop Shiva”, Shivaraju still works as a po­lice con­sta­ble in Ben­galuru, even as his pho­tog­ra­phy gar­ners at­ten­tion from the art world in In­dia and abroad. His ‘Street as Stu­dio’ ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tured in this year’s In­dia Art Fair; he’s been in­vited to doc­u­ment Swe­den’s em­brace of refugees by the Swedish Art Coun­cil; and later this year has ex­hi­bi­tions planned for Switzer­land.

His beats as cop and pho­tog­ra­pher are over­lap­ping. “As a doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher, my prac­tice hap­pens mainly on the streets, and my sub­ject is al­ways the hu­man be­ing and his deep rooted emo­tions. I cap­ture the or­di­nary man in an ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion, and his con­flict or di­a­logue with the sur­round­ings,” he says. “As a po­lice­man I have de­vel­oped a very sharp eye, al­ways at­ten­tive to the world around, look­ing for un­usual things that can be prob­lem­atic to so­ci­ety.”

Born to a fam­ily of farm­ers in Karnataka, Shivaraju grew up in the town where Sho­lay was filmed. Like mil­lions of other ru­ral In­di­ans, he joined the po­lice for the se­cu­rity of a gov­ern­ment job. Af­ter re­lo­cat­ing to Ben­galuru, he dis­cov­ered the 1 Shan­thi­road gallery/stu­dio, where he met many in­ter­est­ing vis­ual artists, schol­ars, film­mak­ers and pho­tog­ra­phers— but it was on an as­sign­ment at his day job that he dis­cov­ered a tal­ent of his own. “The first project as­signed to me [by the po­lice] was to pho­to­graph the mi­grant labour­ers in the con­struc­tion sites of Ben­galuru,” he says. “That was a turn­ing point for me, and when I de­cided to take my pho­tog­ra­phy to the next level.”

That am­bi­tion is clearly ev­i­dent in ‘Street as Stu­dio’—a project in which Shivaraju ex­plored the mi­grant’s frag­mented re­la­tion­ship with the city by pho­tograph­ing work­ers in front of the mu­rals com­mis­sioned by the city’s mu­nic­i­pal­ity to “beau­tify” the streets. The pic­tures con­trast the gar­ish paint­ings of her­itage mon­u­ments, ex­otic an­i­mals, gods and god­desses, and spec­tac­u­lar land­scapes to the hard­scrab­ble re­al­ity of the city dweller.

“Pho­tog­ra­phy gives me the flex­i­bil­ity and ver­sa­til­ity to cap­ture the re­al­ity the way I like to show it. I am very in­flu­enced by the mag­i­cal re­al­ism art school, in which re­al­ity is shown through a curved mir­ror, and al­lows me to fo­cus on the ec­cen­tric side of re­al­ity that many times goes un­no­ticed, show­ing the pub­lic act as a mas­quer­ade per­for­mance,” says Shiva.

Pho­to­graphs by COP SHIVA

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