Meet the man who has been photographing Mumbai’s streets

Gopal MS

@mumbaipaused’s Gopal MS is Mumbai's most underrated chronicler

A metropolis like Mumbai doesn’t have a dearth of chroniclers. From authors to painters, influencers to photographers – turn a rock and a chronicler will appear. Gopal MS is none of this. Neither is he a photographer, nor is he a writer. And he likely never sees himself as an influencer. Yet, for more than ten years now Gopal has been quietly going about photographing the streets of Mumbai. In 2009 – in that golden age of blogging – he started his blog, Mumbai Paused. Every day, Gopal would photograph interesting things he would spot on his way to work or back and post it on the blog.

Unlike most other chroniclers who aim for aesthetic beauty, Gopal simply points and shoots things he finds interesting paying scant attention to framing, exposure etc. As a result, his feed doesn’t have stunning shots that are aimed to wow the audience. There are no sweeping panoramas, no stunning sunsets or skylines, no heritage structures or art deco buildings. Instead, what you get is a real slice-of-life project with zero pretences. Gopal doesn’t use #filters and he doesn’t care too much about Photoshop either. What you get on Mumbai Paused is what he sees. And what you would see if you walked down the street with him. There is an earthy genuineness about Mumbai Paused that makes it so relatable.

Gopal doesn’t care much about the city’s history. Nostalgia doesn’t excite him. Instead, it’s the little things he spots every day that pique his interest: a shoe here, a broken guitar there; a close-up of a lock and, ever so rarely, the people that inhabit this city. It is the Mumbai that people on the streets see – the migrant labourers, the domestic helps, the working class people who must walk every day to save a few rupees. And, if you really think about it, the feed also comes across as one of an outsider looking in.

It was in the mid-00s when Gopal started taking pictures of Bengaluru, his hometown, after he realised that the camera he was gifted was lying around unused. So he started taking it to work and would shoot whatever caught his fancy. Before long, he realised that he had way too many pictures and nowhere to showcase them. So he started a blog that made him a local star. Which Main What Cross documented everyday life in Bengaluru. It became extremely popular. And then Gopal shifted to Mumbai and his love affair with the city was reflected in Mumbai Paused.

Around 2011-12, Gopal turned to Instagram. While he continues to post on the blog, the attention has clearly shifted to Instagram. So, every morning, Gopal takes a train from Vashi in Navi Mumbai where he lives to Sewri in the heart of the former mill land. (He works in an advertising agency in Parel.) Instead of taking an Uber, Gopal walks down to work, taking a different route every day, photographing as he goes along. On a single morning, he manages to get more than half a dozen shots. He rarely ever banks them, choosing instead to drop them in the course of the day or week.

At nearly 27,000, Mumbai Paused’s following may not be as large as some of the other Insta handles that cover the city. But, it is a discerning crowd; the sheer engagement levels on each of his posts are a digital marketer’s wet dream come true. Yet, Gopal doesn’t seem to show any inclination towards monetising his feed. But every once in a while, Gopal drops a digital book. Whenever he finds a patter, he starts hashtagging it on his posts. This dutiful chronicling has resulted in a bunch of e-books. For most part though, Gopal is happy to just walk around the city streets, quietly photographing the sights and scenes that otherwise would’ve gone unnoticed.