Diverse businesses located on one of Leicester’s most vibrant streets have been immortalised thanks to a De Montfort University (DMU) student.
Graduating tomorrow with a Photography and Video BA (Hons), Gianluca Misso has compiled a photographic portrait celebrating small business owners - predominantly from India and Pakistan - on Belgrave Road and surrounding streets.
Also known as the Golden Mile, the area is renowned for its shops selling gold jewellery and saris, authentic Indian restaurants and seasonal lights, including hosting the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India.
The 22-year-old from Leicester said: “I’m three quarters Italian, so culture is a big thing for me. I really wanted to do something for my final-year project which documents the diversity and sense of community in my home city, without it being a cliché.”
Fakir and Irfan Ali
Shooting on film using a 1970s Hasselblad camera, Gianluca took wide angle portraits of business owners in their shops. After scanning and digitally manipulating the photographs, he has compiled them into a book, each one accompanied by a short introduction based on interviews he conducted.
“I really enjoyed using an analogue process to capture the photos. Using film forced me to be more in the moment and not just look at people through a screen,” he said.
Gianluca captured more than 30 portraits, including Fakir and Irfan Ali, a father and son running Gheewala Butchers and General Stores. The business was opened in 1970 by Fakir’s father, Gulam Ali, who moved from Alipore in India during the 1960s, first working in a plastic factory in Leicester.
Ruxi Patel of Belgrave Florist moved to Leicester from Kenya in 1967 when she was just 16. A decade later, Jayantibhai Maru also left Kenya for Leicester, establishing Sai Salon Gents Hairdressers in 1981, thanks to his grandfather who taught him how to cut hair when he was 16.
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Freelancing as a digital content creator, Gianluca is keen to pursue his passion for documentary photography. He said: “This project has given me the confidence to approach strangers and spark conversations.
“It’s taught me a lot about being a photojournalist. Building a good rapport with people is a huge part of it - your photos are only as good as the relationships you build.”
A £500 travel bursary from DMU also proved valuable for Gianluca’s final-year project. He was selected to make a video documentary of English Literature, Design Crafts and Dance students during a trip to Ahmedabad in India, where they supported local people through the university’s partner charity Manav Sadhna.
“The experience was good research for my portrait project and made me feel more connected to the Asian community in Leicester and their culture,” he said.
During his time at DMU, Gianluca also benefited from a placement year abroad. He spent seven months working at a digital marketing agency in Milan, Italy and five months studying photography at EASD university in Valencia, Spain.
The placement was organised through DMU’s Erasmus+ programme, which is offered through the university’s international experience programme #DMUglobal.
Gianluca said: “While I was away I spent a lot of time thinking about and planning my final-year project. I wanted it to be something I could look back on and be proud of. Something that had meaning and depth, as well as something I could learn from. I think I achieved all of that.”
Posted on Friday 19th July 2019