Masterji’s photos earn him a solo show of cultural change

There’s still time (just) to see the Masterji & Coventry exhibition which has received widespread coverage including TV and national press.

The project is funded by a number of organisations including Coventry City of Culture Trust and the city council, with support from Coventry University, City College Coventry and Fargo Village. It is on show at The Box at Fargo until November 20.

Maganbhai Patel came to Coventry in 1951 from Bombay, and as the story goes he was bored with his job and decided to photograph his very different new home city. By 1969 his photographs were proving so popular he was able to set up his own studio. Anyone who has driven up Stoney Stanton Road in the past decades must have noticed Masters photo studio on the right hand side over the canal bridge, driving out of the city.

Masterji as he became known, now aged 94, had his works included in the Imagine Hillfields Exhibition in the same venue in August 2015, but this is the first solo show of his work. There are some gems here; portraits of many people from the South Asian countries, posing with their families, their possessions and their new lives, including the photo below, which apparently shows a bus conductor who later moved to Canada.

Masterji

The influence of Elvis Presley can be seen in some of the portraits from that era, with men displaying slicked back hair and quiffs. Later, weightlifters have bouffant hair and early gym wear as they lift weights to impress. In one photo a man lounges incongruously on a coffee table, with a book and some flowers, and in another a wild-eyed man stares out of shot, his moustache pulled into sharp points.

The decades pass and some people have their pictures taken in Masterji’s studio – some of which has been transplanted here for the exhibition – or crowded outside their own new homes. Perhaps they were anxious to reassure people back home they were ok, or show off their own properties.

There are also his own family photos. In one, a young boy takes a bath in the kitchen sink, and hopefully the Ajaz container nearby had been left there only by accident, and wasn’t in use.

It’s a fascinating exhibition put together by Coventry photographer Jason Tilley, Mark Cook and others who prefer to use the group name Photo Archive Miners. It’s just a shame the exhibition isn’t on for longer so more people could get to see it.

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