Look up from beside M. Putturaj’s gravestone in the Christian cemetery on Hosur Road in Bangalore. Apart from the canopy of trees that blocks the sky and the tops of tall vehicles that ply on the busy road, you can see the back of a billboard. The hoarding flaunts an advertisement for the tax plans of a private bank. From the road, it’s just another advertisement, another product, but from this side, there is some irony in all this, says Bangalore-based photographer PeeVee, short for P. Venkatesan, walking through the cemetery.

PeeVee first noticed the back of a hoarding covered with the flex sheet of an old jewellery advertisement, facing a drain—a flex sheet is the polyurethane sheet that an advertisement is printed on before it is hoisted on hoardings. “I was riding down the old airport road when I spotted this and took a picture with my phone. Over time, I started to notice more of these curious frames," says PeeVee.

Sometimes, old flex sheets are used on the backs of hoardings to provide greater support to a structure, unintentionally lending extra visibility to a brand.

Since spotting such hoardings was mostly a question of chance, PeeVee started taking pictures on his iPhone, trying to capture the stories behind, and on the backs of, hoardings—the irony of an ad dripping affluence amid scenes of squalor, the coincidental longevity of a brand propping up another.

“There are two ways to look at it. One, that often hoardings sell products that are aspirational and out of the reach of a large section of the population, and two, that the localities behind many hoardings are often the demographic that can’t afford products," says PeeVee.

B.S. Manjunath Swamy, assistant commissioner, advertisements, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), says Bangalore has around 2,108 sanctioned commercial hoardings and 280 “personal" hoardings (like those put up by people in front of their shops and stores); BBMP records show 811 hoardings are in place without permission. Permissions depend on the locality. “For example, in the areas around the high court and Vidhana Soudha, no hoardings are allowed," says Swamy.

“More than 50% of the hoardings are running without permission. The owner of the hoarding is paid anywhere between one-third to one-fifth of what clients are charged for the period of advertising," says Dilip Girdhar, who runs Sign World Outdoors, a Bangalore-based outdoor advertising company. Girdhar maintains that hoardings are the best medium for brand recall. “They work as great reminders," he says.

Which is why, old flex sheets on the backs of hoardings “act as extra time on the hoarding for the advertiser, free of cost", says PeeVee. Such sheets, he says, helped add to each image he shot. In one case, it was flowing dark chocolate facing a slum; in another, a woman in a flowing rich salwar kurta, with homeless people taking shelter behind the hoarding.

With over 30 images of such contrasts, PeeVee goes on to show that old, abandoned flex sheets find new uses. On Richmond Road, for instance, there is a large plot belonging to the state department of survey and land records that hosts a temporary settlement. The used sheets from the constantly changing hoarding on the premises provide an added layer of protection to the tin-roof houses here. In Sivananda Circle in north Bangalore, Kumar, a ragpicker and beggar, uses the space behind a hoarding to sleep. “The police don’t allow us to sleep on the pavement, so we use the shade and gap behind this hoarding as shelter," he says.

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