Liza Ambrossio (MX) "The witch stage" - Helphoto 2022



Street as Studio
A migrant’s relationship with the city is a fragmented one. The harsh metropolis of Bangalore can be a difficult landscape; one that offers no easy solution to the primal need to belong and one that accuses immigrants as non-trustable. Portraits constitute an intimate genre within photography. There is the sitter who is besieged by his own cultural context. Props and postures serve as aids in the business of posing and presenting a persona to the camera lens. Studio photography allows for a fusion between the persona and a given landscape, often a painted and representational backdrop that permits wish fulfillment. The photographer composes the frame; eliminates the extraneous, while retaining the essential. The portrait is captured as evidence to an ephemeral truth. The afterlife of the mise-en-scene is etched onto film, its only other trace remains as memory. Cop Shiva seeks intimacy through the lens of his camera, which becomes a receptacle and records the everyday lives of the city’s resident migrants, who come here in search of a livelihood. Shiva has engaged with them over months, and only after gaining their trust, he invites them to pose for him. 

The aim of Street as Studio project is to increase their sense of belonging to the city and the community that he and his camera represent. He further aims to emphasise their position in the whole scheme of the things a metropolis represents. The backdrops, referencing the studio tradition, are outdoors, specifically, the murals commissioned by the city’s municipality to “beautify” the streets: Garish paintings of heritage monuments, exotic animals, gods and goddesses, and spectacular landscapes – all of which stand in striking contrast to their lived reality as a secular and cosmopolitan working citizenry, struggling for recognition and in search of intimacy. Shiva asked these real-life vernacular characters to pose against these murals in order to create intimate portraits.

As an artist, policeman and migrant, Cop Shiva seeks intimacy through the lens of his camera, which becomes a receptacle and records of the lives of the people at the fringes of society. Reaching this point is an ongoing process and his experiences as a farmer, police officer, art coordinator and artist have helped him build a right mindset and focus on his practice. Negotiating all these different aspects of Shiva’s life has allowed him to construct a personal narrative that is shown throughout his work. In 2001 he migrated from his village to join the India Police Department. Moving to Bangalore was challenging but also gave Shiva the opportunity to pursue his artistic career. In 2007 he joined the art collective 1Shanthiroad, one of the leading Indian contemporary art institutions, as artists’ coordinator, which gave him the opportunity to work with more than 100 established and emerging Indian and international artists.

Shiva’s practice documents the complexity of rural and urban India, focusing on people and portraiture as a genre, and is fascinated by the idea of masquerade and the roles people play in public and private. His portfolio includes portraits of urban migrants, people of alternative sexuality, street performers and others living in the hinterland of urban and rural conflict. Cop Shiva is represented by Gallery Sumukha and Art Heritage Gallery in India. He has been awarded grants by Prohelvetia-Switzerland and the Swedish Art Council, and was a finalist for the 2016 Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography at Peabody Museum of Harvard University. 

Cop Shiva (IN) "Street as Studio" - Helphoto 2020
Cop Shiva (IN) "Street as Studio" - Helphoto 2020