TA Writer of the Week: The ‘Shotgun Murugan’ of city storytelling

His tryst with street photography started with clicking the mains and crosses of Bangalore and in a short while, M.S. Gopal became, probably, one of the most celebrated contemporary photo bloggers in India.


His tryst with street photography started with clicking the mains and crosses of Bangalore and in a short while, M.S. Gopal became, probably, one of the most celebrated contemporary photo bloggers in India. When not coming up with an ad creative to sell us detergent or a pack of cream biscuits, he shoots some of the most stellar photo stories on city travel and urban management issues. In an interview with the man more popularly known as ‘Slogan Murugan’.

When my wife gifted me a camera, just to use the camera, I started clicking one image a day on my way to work and started posting the images on a blog called ‘Which Main? What Cross?’.

Tell us a little about yourself – your line of work, family, favourite writers, pet peeves, quirks, ice cream flavour – pretty much anything under the sun.

I am a copywriter working for an advertising agency and a photo blogger who documents Mumbai streets through photographs. I live in Navi Mumbai with my wife and a 5 year old son. My favourite writer keeps changing according to the book I am reading and the last two writers I loved reading were Kiran Nagarkar and Vilas Sarang.

I love cities and observing people and a happy day is one when I have shot a good image or I have a good advertising idea. I am, also, addicted to the internet and one day it’s going to kill me.

Your photo stories and blogs (Which Main, What Cross and Mumbai Paused) always touch upon strong socio-cultural themes in seemingly mundane city scenarios.

When my wife gifted me a camera, just to use the camera, I started clicking one image a day on my way to work and started posting the images on a blog called ‘Which Main? What Cross?’. At that point of time I had no intention to touch on any socio-cultural themes. I was only trying to learn to use a camera like most of us who could suddenly afford to have a hobby called photography. But the camera was an eye opener for me because I was now looking at parts and sides of Bangalore that we all see but never paused to notice. I started observing things for the pleasure of finding a good subject to photograph. Once I started clicking many images and compiling them as a blog, a pattern emerged that can be called Socio-Cultural themes. And later when I moved to Mumbai, I continued the habit.

100 new ways: First day first show at Majestic. Pic: M.S. Gopal

Are the best photo stories and the most exotic compositions to be found right in our own cities/towns?

Good photo stories and exotic composition (for others) can be found anywhere. And if you live in a city like Mumbai or a city that is forever changing like Bangalore, there’s a story on every street and the street scene changes every few minutes. But then, I shoot ordinary things and they are extraordinary if you observe them carefully because the people and their lives are simply wonderful.

Do you see your camera as a tool that facilitates interaction with your subjects? Does photography bring new insights and a certain depth to the subject matter as well?

I, often, use the camera as a Namaste. But that depends on the place and situation. Most of the time, I try to be invisible and try to shoot candid images. But when I need to dig a little deeper, I sometimes use it as a tool to open up people and make them smile. It usually works. But more important than a camera is a smile on my face is what I feel. Photography does bring a lot of insights and I have been lucky to work with reporters from magazines and newspapers who have trained skills of observation and communication and I have learnt a lot from them. The most fascinating thing about a camera is that it captures things that you will notice only when you process the images and would’ve missed out when you were actually there and that somehow completes the understanding of the place. I always wish that I was more patient and I was a better listener. Better pictures usually follow when I spend enough time observing and understanding.

In The Alternative, I love the stories related to water issues. Among them, I like the stories about the lakes of Bangalore most. Pic: M.S. Gopal

How do you define sustainability in your own life? Is it a difficult thing to do or you find yourself and more folks joining the brigade, especially with your blog and articles?

My life is not a good example of sustainability. I write ads for a living and it is to urge people to consume more and even more. Maybe blogging is an escape from that world.

But when it comes to daily life, I aim to retain the lifestyle that existed when I grew up in the 70s and 80s in Bangalore when nothing was in plenty. I don’t have too many needs and I keep it low. The advantage is that I save much more than any of my friends.

I don’t know if my blogs address these issues directly but I find that a majority of my friends believe in the opposite and their aim seems to be to consume more things, travel, commute and holiday like first world citizens. From what I see around the city, I think we will only consume more in the coming years if the economy is fine.

The best thing you ever read in The Alternative. Or maybe quote your favourite lines / share a picture from any article that you really liked.

Raw untreated sewage flows into one of Bangalore’s main water body – the Ulsoor lake. Pic: M.S. Gopal

In The Alternative, I love the stories related to water issues. Among them, I like the stories about the lakes of Bangalore most. It’s not just about one single image or story about the issue but the fact that through a focus on water, almost every aspect of our lives are addressed. Please don’t stop doing those stories.

How do you think can The Alternative spread the message on sustainable living to a wider audience of the uninitiated and naysayers?

I write ads for a living and it is to urge people to consume more and even more. Maybe blogging is an escape from that world.

If you continue to do what you are doing, all the stories should add up and reach out on their own. Wouldn’t it? I also like the idea of the section called ‘Social Business’, which seems under utilised. There are so many people with ideas in India but don’t have a place to reach out to the people who can actually use them but don’t know. That’s where you will probably get the naysayers.

All pics courtesy M.S. Gopal

Also read:

TA Writer of the Week: Upasana Sharma, the new breed of youth consciousness 


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
   FOLLOW US

   SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
  Top Stories on TA






  Top Stories in EDITORIAL POSTS






   Get stories like this in your inbox

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Discuss this article on Facebook