Snake Shivappa, that isn’t his real name. But, in the competitive world of brands and markets, Devaraj K S, a snake catcher, prefers to call himself by that name. I must admit, it has a strong recall value.
Some people say that Shivappa has rescued around 12,000 snakes from various corners of Bangalore city. This number cannot be an exaggeration. The city is ever-growing, and natural habitats are slowly making way for the wants of modernity. Hence, it is no surprise that man-versus-animal conflict takes place in large numbers here. The most visible of these conflicts in mainstream media would be the man-versus-elephant conflict, taking place in the periphery of the city. But, venomous snakes like Cobras do garner media attention when they stray into human habitat and vice versa.
With a pachyderm, the end of the conflict is most often a tragedy with loss of lives or property. But, when it comes to snakes, thanks to snake-catchers like Shivappa, the help is a phone call away. With timely intervention, both, the man and the reptile, get to stay alive.
I met Shivappa during an afternoon at Bangalore Press Club. He is a known face to most press photographers. The photographers have captured and published hundreds of images of the reptiles rescued by him.
In the highly competitive space of newspapers, how often do the unglamorous faces like Shivappa’s appear?
Advertisements keep newspapers alive. And newspapers need glamour and sensation to attract advertisers. This is especially true in cities like Bangalore. Hence, with every major ‘sensational’ rescue by him , Shivappa gets that rare opportunity to be seen in the newspapers. Unfortunately, the focus will always be on his ‘catch’ rather than him.
Who says photography always tells the truth? Can photography not be biased?
At the heart of photography, lies the ‘composition of a frame’. Composition is the ultimate political decision one can make in their lives. In composition, we include within a tiny rectangle (or square), a subset of the world that we see. What is to be included in this rectangle would seem important for the photographer. But, what is left out and unseen by the eventual viewer of the image, isn’t that important too? Isn’t it a political decision to leave certain things behind?
Did I just show you the absolute truth? You saw the Cobra, but you didn’t see Shivappa…
Maybe, Shivappa survives the composition test of photographers. But, there is no guarantee that he’ll survive being cropped out of images, when the pages get designed by a different set of people.
Shivappa says, that he has no permanent job despite his decade long work. He survives on whatever is given to him by the people who call him up to capture snakes from their homes. He adds, that there is no fixed income in every rescue. At times, the people who call him are the ones who struggle to make a living themselves.
Shivappa asked me if I can put his number in the newspaper so that people can call him. But, that would be an advertisement. I couldn’t promise him that… But, I promised to get his number out to the rest of the world, at least through my blog. So, here it is.
Name: Snake Shivappa (Devaraj K S)
Occupation: Snake Catcher
Area of operations: Any corner of Bangalore city!
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