Kavi Pujara’s photographs retrace his steps again to Leicester

Kavi Pujara’s newly released body of work sees him rediscover a pocket of Leicester near to where he grew up – a multicultural stretch of the city known as the Golden Mile. It’s an area he describes as “the last mile of a long journey to Britain”, but it’s the surrounding neighbourhoods feeding into it which have Pujara’s attention.

The photographer emphasises the political and social context from which the work stemmed, whether the racism he faced growing up in Leicester in the 1970s and 1980s, or the hostile anti-immigration policies that have grown under successive UK governments. Pujara’s experiences led him to move to London as soon as he was old enough, but nearly 30 years later, he moved back to Leicester with his family – and camera – in tow.

Top: Neighbours, Dundonald Road, 2018; Above: Boy with the Union flag, Hildyard Road, 2021. All images © Kavi Pujara

Held at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, This Golden Mile is the first solo exhibition by Pujara, a self-taught photographer who honed his documentary photography practice while climbing the ranks at the BBC as a film editor. (Two of his images are also in the exhibition for this year’s Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize.) His exhibition for This Golden Mile is accompanied by his debut monograph of the same name, which comes with a striking cover designed by Tom Booth Woodger featuring interlocking titles written in English and Gujarati.

There’s a matter-of-factness to both Pujara’s portraiture and his still life images, which take place in the street as well as in people’s homes. Yet his faithfulness to showing life as it is doesn’t stop him from finding moments of aesthetic pleasure, thanks partly to his eye for colourful backdrops. The book is awash with ochres, decadent purples, and chalky reds, not to mention Leicester’s vast number of industrial brick buildings.

Image of two men holding hands as one leans against a trolley, taken from Kavi Pujara's book This Golden MileHaresh and Ashik, Syston Street, 2021
Image shows a man sat on a post in the street with one leg crossed over the other, taken from Kavi Pujara's book This Golden MileBelgrave Road. Leicester, 2018

“For over 50 years, families around This Golden Mile have had a shared experience of migrating to Leicester and have re-articulated their South Asian identity to exist within an English context. These experiences bond this community, and they bond them to me,” he writes in the book.

“I made this book to give voice to that bond, and I also hope it will contribute to the conversation around immigration to Britain. We have a multicultural society because Britain is the product of a multicultural empire. Communities like this are not an erosion of British values or its culture, but a vital artery in our intertwined and tangled colonial histories.”

Image shows a person in a pink outfit holding a picture of a vase of flowers over their face, taken from Kavi Pujara's book This Golden MileChandni with flowers, Community Garden, 2021
Image shows a man sat on a sofa with union jacks in the background, taken from Kavi Pujara's book This Golden MileBhukan Singh and Gurmeet Kaur, 2021
Image shows a person wearing a pink outfit holding a bouquet of flowers, taken from Kavi Pujara's book This Golden MileFront Room, Halkin Street, 2021
Image shows a rainbox over an old factory, taken from Kavi Pujara's book This Golden MileCurzonia Knitwear, Curzon Street, 2020
Image shows a sewing machine on the floor next to a purple door, taken from Kavi Pujara's book This Golden MileSewing machine, Moria Street, 2021

This Golden Mile by Kavi Pujara runs at the Martin Parr Foundation from October 6-December 18. The accompanying book is published by Setanta Books; kavipujara.com