Cop Shiva who is a photographer when he is not being a policeman, tells Harshini Vakkalanka he has two ambitions — to document the neglected sections of society and to change people's perception of the police

Cop Shiva, a constable by day and photographer when he's not being a cop, is a familiar face at 1 Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery. He works at the gallery as a co-ordinator and that's where he picked up his interest in photography.

“I used to meet so many artists there, and wanted to do something creative. I picked up photography through my interactions with other photographers and by observing them,” says Shiva, whose full name is B. S. Shivaraju. His works under the title “Face Two Face” are now on display at Gallery Sumukha.

Shiva hails from a family of farmers from Tamil Nadu. He studied until class 12 and then applied for a job in the Railways. “I was good at sports, so I became a Railway police officer. Then in 2006, I joined the Karnataka Police as a constable.” He keeps his job separate from his passion. He almost never takes his camera to work. But he does get tip offs for assignments through his job.

“I get so many ideas when I work because there are so many things, largely public issues, that I get to see while on duty.”

That was how he found his subject for his exhibition. “Face two Face” showcases two different sets of photographs. One follows a Bagadehalli Basavaraju, who lives his life playing the role of Gandhi and the other captures Vidya Sagar, who is commonly known a M.G.R, after he took to imitating the actor, complete with wig and makeup ever since he was a teenager.

Both these characters are separate, yet inexorably connected. “I met Basavaraju at a function while on police duty. At first, I just clicked a picture of him. Then it struck me that there are so many people like him in society who are not recognized. I want people to recognize them. So I found out where he lived and visited him a few times without the camera. Once he was comfortable with me, I started clicking pictures. They are all natural shots,” explains Shiva.

Vidya Sagar, on the other hand, was not so happy about being photographed. “His wife supported me and most of his pictures turned out to be portraits since he is always at home.”

There are a few pictures of Sagar with his family. Both of them live and dress like their idols.

“Basavaraju is a school teacher and he lives like Gandhiji. He hopes to change society by reminding people about Gandhiji. He thinks he is Gandhiji.”

Shiva began exploring photography around four years ago. He practised on a 12 mp camera for a year and then bought a DSLR. “I first started capturing nature, then slowly I moved on to capturing people. I like shooting different characters, maybe it's because of my police background.”

Cop Shiva considers himself a documentary photographer. He has already participated in and curated shows in India, Sri Lanka and the UK. This is his first solo exhibition. Gandhi has featured as a subject in quite a few of his shows. “I tried to document his presence in our lives through books and sculptures. I find him fascinating, he was an interesting character.”

“Even for this exhibition, I had to compare many photographs because these characters of Gandhiji and M.G.R. are both real and not real. People don't even call them by their real names anymore. There's no end to capturing them. Both these projects are ongoing.”

Between his job and his passion, Shiva finds that he has no time for himself. But he is not complaining. “My job is stressful and I find photography and working with Shanthi Road relaxing. I now have many ambitions for my passion.”

As a documentary photographer, his camera naturally zooms in on urban issues. In one such instance, his photographs of old wells featured prominently in a photo exhibition commemorating the World Water Day in the Max Mueller Bhavan. He has plans of hosting an exhibition on the street.

“That was part of a city archival project for Shanthi Road. I keep clicking pictures of interesting things. When it comes to the city, everyone talks about architecture, but nobody recognizes the migrant construction workers. So I want to have an exhibition of their photographs on the street near a new building. They feel so happy when I show them their pictures.” Though Shiva is known in the city circles as “Cop Shiva” more than Shivaraju, he wants his name to carry the tag of “photographer” instead. “I want to document all the neglected sections of the society. Someday, I hope to document rural India. Since I come from a farming background, I understand rural life.”

But he has not forgotten his other side. “People have built a certain image about a policeman. I want to break that image. I have two kinds of ambitions.”

“Face Two Face” will on view at Gallery Sumukha, 24/10 BTS Depot Road, Wilson Garden, until May 26.

For details, contact 22292230.