Cop Shiva talks about his new show and gets candid about his journey so far
What makes you happy? Perhaps a profound question for which nobody has an easy answer. But is it possible to find happiness? Well, yes, that’s what Bengaluru’s Cop Shiva, a cop by day and world-renowned photographer by night, believes in and he seems to have found it. His latest show Urban Ecstasy is testament to that: a series of 39 documentary images that are an ode to the city “that’s still trembling with ecstasy.”
The vivid photographs of numerous ooru habbas (village fests) bring to the fore rituals that are still celebrated across various suburbs in the city. While Bengaluru grows and expands in all directions, Shiva is attempting to hold the city’s culture in the cusp of time. “Bengaluru is not just an IT city. There are several villages (suburbs) that exist within and people living here continue to celebrate habbas which are intrinsic to their culture,” he says.
Shiva has come a long way from his debut show Being Gandhi (2011). The photographer had made use of daylight as the only source of lighting while capturing his subject — a village school teacher who dressed up like Gandhi. In Urban Ecstasy, Shiva has made optimum use of the laws of physics. He has managed to capture images with the lowest possible shutter speed in situations where the only light available was the temple-lamp light. One of the most memorable shots is the image of two pahalwans (wrestlers) who have donned the Hanuman vesha (dress) and are posing inside the sanctum sanctorum of the 100-year-old Kunjanna Gardi Mane (wrestlers’ den) in Nagarathpet. “The biggest challenge I faced was convincing the 70-odd people in the tiny room on why I wanted to shoot only two guys dressed as Hanuman. Finally, when I did convince them, I had just 90 seconds to click.”
It’s evident from the photographs that it must have been an uphill task to break the ice and get intimate shots of these age-old festivals where only community folks are allowed. “Shooting 28 festivals, and continuously following each one of them for five years has been a learning experience. The first time I went, I wasn’t able to capture everything I wanted. But the next time, was better.”
Bannikuppe to Switzerland
It’s Shiva’s hard work, perseverance and passion that has helped him build a repertoire of such impressive work. Though from a village called Bannikuppe near Rama Nagara, Shiva stands tall as a breakthrough artiste in the world of art and photography. “My education up to Standard X was in Kannada medium. Only when I started pursuing photography and began meeting people to showcase my work, I realised how important English is and signed up for English speaking classes,” he says with a laugh. Since his first show in 2012, Shiva hasn’t looked back. He says, “You need to believe in yourself, and in your work. If there is no belief, there is no life. Just like the people I have captured for Urban Ecstasy, they believe in their God, so they find happiness in what they do.” Shiva will soon be travelling to Switzerland for a residency as the recipient of the 2017 grant by Pro Helvetia-Switzerland and Swedish Art Council.
Till February 3.
At Gallery Sumukha, Wilson Garden. Details: 22292230
— Ayesha Tabassum