Gopal MS’s images are not picturesque. His chronicles don’t always frame the pretty and they almost always avoid the touristy. Yet, they are quintessentially Mumbai.
The curly-haired, bespectacled advertising copywriter began photographing the city after moving there from Bengaluru in 2009. “I wanted to look at Mumbai through the colours of communication on the streets,” the 43-year-old said.
He has since discovered several shades of the kaleidoscopic city, in its newspaper junkies, in its goat market during Eid-al-Adha, and in the roadside filters offering free water to passers-by. “By clicking photographs, I am freezing the moments in the city,” said Gopal, who lives and works in Vashi and goes online by the name Slogan Murugan.
The colour that currently fascinates him is saffron.
On Instagram and his Facebook page, both called Mumbai Paused, Gopal has been collating images that frame the ubiquity in the city of right-wing groups and parties such as the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party. He hashtags the pictures #SaffronTide.
The SaffronTide series, Gopal says, puts the focus “on communication from the saffron groups. While the hashtag is only a couple of months old, I am also revisiting some of the images that were shot earlier in 2013 and 2014.”
One image in the album exhibits the usurpation of Shivaji Bhonsle by right-wing groups as a nationalistic hero. Another demonstrates their attempt at making the cow an emblem of Hindutva pride.
There are about 40 pictures in the album so far, but the street photographer plans to update it whenever he finds an interesting addition. “Usually, a project like this gets more interesting over a longer period,” he said. “It allows us to see how things and political communication evolve over time.”
Armed with his basic knowledge of Marathi, Gopal gives most of the images one-word captions like Territory, Warrior and Heroes. “I think my aim is to let the photographs speak for themselves and not me.”