28th May, 2020

Tributes to Coventry photographer as Masterji dies aged 95

Felix Nobes 13th Feb, 2018 Updated: 14th Feb, 2018

AN ACCLAIMED Coventry photographer – affectionately known as Masterji – has passed away aged 95.

Maganbhai Patel was well known in Coventry’s South Asian community but has recently been celebrated in the city and worldwide.

He had been photographing immigrants from that region as they moved into the city since the 1950s.

His work shot to national prominence when, at the age of 94, he held his first exhibition at Fargo Village at the end of 2016.

It became an important symbol for diversity and inclusion as part of the bid for Coventry to be UK City of Culture.

The exhibition was curated by the Photo Archive Miners (PAM), a local photography company.

A book of his work was released 12 months later at an event at St Mary’s Guildhall.

The exhibition – which later went to Mumbai and New York – and the book saw Masterji attract global media attention.

This included visits from BBC national news on two occasions and other national and international press coverage.

Masterji’s daughter, Tarla Patel, said: “Gaining recognition in his later life was beautiful to see as a family.

“My father’s talent and his warmth is something that will be forever captured in his photography.

“Working alongside PAM for the Coventry 2021 bid was an amazing experience for all the family and brought a joy to my father, and those that he met along the way.”

The Coventry City of Culture Trust has paid tribute to the photographer among many others.

Laura McMillan, director of operations and legacy at Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “Our thoughts are with Masterji’s family at this time. We were proud to work with him, his daughter, Tarla, and the whole family as well as the team at PAM to help share his story with the world – and what an inspirational story it is.

“It was lovely to see how much the recognition meant to him and his family.

“And we have no doubt whatsoever that his work made a major contribution to Coventry being named UK City of Culture 2021.

“We talked a great deal about the diversity of the city during the bid process but Masterji’s photos were a wonderful illustration of that and have given a much better understanding of the city’s history in terms of immigration from South Asia.

“We are deeply sorry for the family’s loss and we know he will be sorely missed.”

Photographer Jason Tilley, who has been instrumental in bringing Masterji’s work to citywide and global prominence, tweeted: “What a wonderful man he was. A joy to be in the company of, kind, funny, always a twinkle in his eye. Proud, strong and a pioneer. In every sense of the word a true gentleman. Love you, goodbye mate.”

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