Funded by Coventry City Council and Coventry 2021 City of Culture
Funded by Coventry City Council and Coventry 2021 City of Culture, with support from Coventry University, City College Coventry and Fargo Village
Masterji is a Coventry original, the art of photography his obsession for more than sixty years. He documented the South-Asian community in Coventry with a theatrical, playful eye that brought out the character of his customers and defines his style, and also reveals much about how a migrant community was keen to be portrayed.
Masterji presents a vision of how these new citizens viewed their place in Coventry’s future: successful workers in a modernist, industrial phoenix rising from the devastation of World War II. Props and lighting, sharp suits and smiles reveal their promise and potential.
In reality work was less easy to come by for migrants. Instead, these engineers and teachers started family businesses or began precarious, low paid work on the buses or factory floors. While Coventry enjoyed its post-war boom, many of the migrant population looked in from the outside, by-passed by prosperity.
This is true for Masterji himself. Now at the age of 94, his first solo exhibition showcases the portrait and family photography that became his focus whilst other, well-networked Coventry photographers undertook higher paying commercial work.
Masterji’s story chimes in a Britain once again riven with social division, but his photography, his art, celebrates the character, the potential and the joy that newcomers can bring to a city.
November 3rd to 20th sees Masterji's first solo exhibition at the age of 94. It's been over two years of working with Tarla and Ravi, Masterji's children, to sort through negatives, clean them, re-print them in the darkroom, scan them on a Hasselblad x-5 for film and projections, and get the prints framed.
Now we are going to build an exhibition at the beautiful Box, Fargo Village, with walls from Coventry University. We are re-creating Masterji's original studio to encourage visitors to photograph themselves and share the pictures online.
We'll be using Masterji's photographs to explore what it meant to be a south-Asian migrant, and reflect on social divisions today, in workshops with schools and community groups.