He brings you a slice of Mumbai every day. Mumbai, the city of dreams, the city that never sleeps, and a city that is the Mecca for all aspiring Indians, be it the Bollywood hopeful or the financial upstart.
He is a copywriter by profession and a photographer by passion. Meet M S Gopal, aka Slogan Murugan, whose brilliant photo-blog Mumbai Paused brings you the real Mumbai, warts and all.
The photograph (in his case a caricature) on his email ID is that of an aam (common) politician, with the words aam bhrashtachari emblazoned on his Gandhi topi.
Just like a copywriter who is always in the background of the advertisements he creates, Gopal too is the man behind the lens that chronicles Mumbai. You see only his iconic photographs.
It all began when his wife gifted him a camera, a simple point and shoot one. He needed to learn how to use the camera, so he began taking photographs, just like a novice would do, of everything he saw around him. Soon, it turned into a passionate hobby; he would click pictures of whatever he saw on his way to office and would upload them on to his computer.
This daily ritual eventually led to his first photo-blog, “Which Main. What Cross?“ This blog chronicled the lives of the ordinary Bengalurean.
Source: Which Main. What Cross?
Gopal has since moved to amchi Mumbai, where he continues his daily ritual; only this time, the blog is aptly named “Mumbai Paused“.
Aptly named because Mumbai is always on the move, 24 X 7. He uses his mobile phone to take pictures these days.
In an email interview, M S Gopal, aka Slogan Murugan, shares his thoughts about his life and his world.
As a keen observer of life around you, what is it that draws your attention on a street or on the pavement that you think will be worth photographing?
To use a cliché, it is the extraordinary things hidden in ordinary things that draw my attention. The ordinary things are something we all share without noticing. For example: the shade of a tree or an old man on his morning walk you pass every day, who we will probably miss only if we miss seeing him after a few days when he is gone forever. The new leaves on a banyan tree in March or April. Everything is worth photographing; it is how it connects to us at a given moment that makes it extraordinary, perhaps.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or is it worth more than that?
I am a copywriter. I work for an advertising agency. In my job, it is not the number of words, but how well we use the words that is important. However, for photographs, especially for good photographs, the ideal comparison is the value that a poet would assign to a word, a comma or a semi-colon. How can we limit that to just a thousand words?
Does it help to be a copywriter?
Yes. The raw material that a copywriter uses to sell things and influence people comes from the behaviour of people as individuals and groups. It makes me aware of people’s habits and it changes the point of view of the images.
Do you upload your photographs ‘as taken’ or do you edit them before posting them on your blog?
No, I usually crop and adjust the brightness, contrast and sometimes the colours of the images. I use a software called Lightroom to make changes.
Have you ever gone back to the same street to take photographs?
Yes. I do that often. Nothing stays the same on a street. It changes from day to day, minute to minute. And often, you discover new things on repeat visits. When I used to live in Bangalore, I used to visit the Majestic theatre and Gandhinagar every Friday morning on my way to work. It was the day Kannada movies were released and each week I used to discover a different aspect of the Friday movie release day.
Between colour, and black and white photography, which do you prefer and why?
I mostly shoot in colour but that’s because I have not been able to get the hang of using black and white well. I am learning.
Do you have any other hobbies besides photography?
I try to read as many books as possible and I am addicted to surfing aimlessly on the Internet, reading useless things.
Do you, in the near future, plan to bring out a coffee table book of your photographs?
Unfortunately no. I am too lazy to do the hard work required to produce a book. I enjoy shooting images, and uploading them online is effortless.
Can you recall any special moments ever since you took up photography?
There are too many. One of the happiest was watching kids outside Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, climbing a wall. (A climbing wall is an artificially constructed wall with grips for hands and feet, usually used for indoor climbing, but sometimes located outdoors). I assume that today they are accomplished climbers conquering new peaks.
According to you, what makes India so special?
I have never been outside of India so I do not know how India compares with the world. But I love my home and I find no particular urge to go outside of India to shoot images. There is so much to see here and I don’t think I will be able to do justice to a city like Mumbai where I live, or my hometown Bangalore, in a lifetime.
According to you, what are the three essential ingredients for a good photograph?
Good story. Interesting composition. Luck.
As a copywriter, do you ever ‘doodle’ or draw ‘cartoons’ in your spare time? If yes, could you share some of them with us?
I don’t. However, I collaborate with an illustrator named Amol Urankar to create one frame stories about Mumbai.
According to you what is so ‘incredible’ about India?
It has to be the people. Unity in diversity is something that we live every day. The incredible smiles on our faces, even when a camera is not focused on us, is what make it so incredible.
Could you describe yourself?
Even before Mr. India was made, I used to imagine that I was invisible and I was watching the world without being a part of it. My hobby is probably an extension of that fantasy.