I had the opportunity recently to attend an exhibition at the incredible creative cornucopia that is Fargo village in coventry if you haven’t attended I heavily recommend it the traders there are super friendly and it also goes to support our local artisans and traders as opposed to the “big boys” check out their website below.
It was an exhibit put together and organised by the work of a local group of individuals called the Photo Archive Miners who did an exceptional job at keeping this exhibit incredibly informative and thought provoking at the same time. please do visit their website below
The exhibit I attended was the work of the incredible Maganbhai Patel otherwise known as Masterji (a hat tip to his teaching past) over the last 60 years. Masterji has photographed and documented countless images of the lives of south asian immigrants in Coventry.it is almost a shame that it has taken until he was 94 to see his first major exhibit but fingers crossed we will continue to see more from this body of work as the photo archive miners keep digging so to speak.
When walking into the exhibit you are confronted with the harsh reality that these people would face but it almost felt insignificant, Masterji tends to have a way of empowering his subjects in his photographs and he does it with such natural finesse and almost effortlessness. The exhibit showed a variety of images from early fifties black and white to colour negative enlargements all the way through to his later work. The one thing you notice that is underlaying in his images are they are incredibly personal and touching. he uses composition to draw the viewers eye to what he wants you to look at, shots from the seventies that had hand painted backdrops leaning against a wall in his home. while other photographers from his day would have cropped closer in to the subject to cut out the surroundings of the image masterji included the worn skirting boards and tatty wall paper and showed the studio lights in the image. this gives that extra sense of how real these people were and are to this day.
My partner and i had the pleasure meeting one of the many people in the exhibit who was photographed by masterji many years previous. shown below along side the image of himself at the top of the image
After talking to this lovely gentleman for about 10 minutes or so he told us about his wife of many years who had unfortunately passed away fairly recently and on the funeral service was an image that meant the world to him and his family and it was a shot taken by no less than masterji. This said something to me, that these images that masterji took weren’t just throwaway images like the thousands of pictures on most peoples cameraphones and in todays society they stood for that power and solidarity in a community that seem like a thing of the past.
That being said with the dedicated work of the hard working folks from the photo archive miners they seem to keep digging up treasures in the past to remind us of a community that still remains we just have to ensure that we actively partake. I will certainly start work on something community based long term utilising my love of the darkroom and historical process so watch this space .
until next time