Coventry & Warwickshire

Coventry photographer Masterji, 94, has first exhibition

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Media captionFirst exhibition for 94-year-old Coventry photographer, Masterji

A photographer who has captured South Asian immigrants settling in the UK since the 1950s is having his first exhibition - at the age of 94.

Maganbhai Patel arrived in Coventry from India in 1951 and spent many years taking photographs of his community.

The former headteacher's pictures became so popular he decided to open a studio at his home in 1969.

His vast array of images was uncovered last year when his daughter showed them to a local exhibition group.

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Image copyright Maganbhai Patel
Image caption People would don their finest clothes for photographs which would be sent back to their families in India
Image copyright Maganbhai Patel
Image caption Young and old would pose for Mr Patel in his home studio

Seventy of them will form the exhibition, which is being held as part of Coventry's bid to be City of Culture 2021.

Tarla Patel, 40, said: "My father's photographs capture a time when Coventry was changing and developing, and people had many hopes and dreams about what they wanted to do."

Known as Masterji as a mark of respect because of his teaching past, Mr Patel spent many years working at the town's General Electric Company before taking up his passion full-time.

"He had a box brownie camera in India, and when he came to England he also studied photography at night school," Ms Patel said.

"People would ask him to take their wedding photos, but because he became very well known he started his own business.

Image copyright Maganbhai Patel
Image caption One of his subjects was Parvanna, a Coventry-based South Asian band

He set up Master's Art Studio at the front of his home, and over the years his wife, two sons and two daughters became keen photographers. One son, Ravindra Patel, runs the family business today.

His subjects range from families posing in their best clothes for photographs to send back to India to identity photographs.

Image copyright Maganbhai Patel
Image caption Masterji has also taken many self portraits, including this side profile
Image copyright Maganbhai Patel
Image caption Master's Art Studio is now run by Mr Patel's son Ravindra, pictured here as a boy with a toy tank

Mr Patel said he was "very grateful, very proud" that his photographs were to be shown after all this time.

"There was no Indian photographer, I was the first," he said. "They come to me and make friendships (sic). And the people I make happy, you know, they like me."

Curator Jason Tilley, of Photo Archive Miners, said: "The work of Masterji is of huge significance not just for Coventry but the UK because it's a window into the lives of people as they arrived here and the image they wanted to send home.

"Many of the pictures were taken as portraits or for their official documentation so you see a very formal image.

"In other photos, you see a more laid-back style and also some of the difficulties they faced so it really documents a very important part of the city's history and its cultural diversity."

It is hoped some of the subjects in the images will come forward as a result of the exhibition.

Masterji's work is on show at The Box, Fargo Village, Coventry from 3 November to 20 November