Mahtab Hussain’s photographs explore the critical question of identity among young working-class British Asian men.
You Get Me? addresses the contested political terrain of race and representation, respect and cultural difference.
The men portrayed in Hussain’s portraits identify as Muslim, and expressed that they felt culturally ridiculed by the constant flow of derogatory media representation of their lives.
The 24 portraits in the exhibition examine how the weight of masculinity impacts the subject’s sense of self, as they navigate the complex identity formations historically placed upon them.
Hussain photographed the series over a nine-year period in Birmingham – where he grew up – stopping individuals in the street and starting conversations as he took their portrait. He later expanded the project to London and Nottingham.
A photobook of You Get Me? was published by MACK in June to coincide with the exhibition. It can be purchased online via mackbooks.co.uk
Visit the project online at mahtabhussain.com
Mahtab Hussain’s photographs explore the critical question of identity among young working-class British Asian men. You Get Me? addresses the contested political terrain of race and representation, respect and cultural difference. Visit the project online at mahtabhussain.com or purchase the book online at mackbooks.co.uk
Supported using public funding by Arts Council England – Autograph ABP Premiered You Get Me? at Rivington Place in London 2017
Written by Helen Trompeteler
While the exploration of individual and collective identity has always been a principal theme within photographic portraiture, it is at times of social and political uncertainty that such questions inevitably come to the fore…
Written by Lucy Macmillan
Given such uninspiring backdrops as the deprived inner city streets of Birmingham’s Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, and Small Heath, it’s hard to believe that such prosaic settings could be the cradle from which an important piece of work has emerged, a work which offers its viewers challenging portraits of people most recently reviled by Western society…
Written by Charles Guice
Some time ago, I was returning from a summer overseas in the UK. It was 1987 and I was 28. I had avoided the recent tension and strife. Areas like Brixton, Toxteth and Tottenham had literally burned, but now the entire country had returned to a relative, yet guarded calm…
Written by Daniel Jewesbury
For many decades following Indian and Pakistani independence in 1947, the immigrants who arrived in Britain from the two new states were seen, by their hosts, as largely undifferentiated…
In 2008 Mahtab Hussain was a Goldsmiths graduate working at the National Portrait Gallery. Having become increasingly frustrated by the lack of representation of the British Muslim community in the arts, he decided to start travelling back to Birmingham, where he grew up, to make work that actually spoke to – as well as about – British Muslims.
Enter Autograph studios in London and more than twenty faces will meet your gaze. Artist Mahtab Hussain is one of them; the rest belong to young boys and men featured in Hussain’s photography series, You Get Me?
These men wear Adidas hoodies over shalwar kameez, they eat fish and chips after prayer, they pluck their eyebrows and box in beanies. They are vulnerable, curled up and asleep; they are stylish and rebellious, hanging out of car windows; they are just like all other young British boys, playing football on the pavement…
How do Muslim men live in Western countries? The photographer Mahtab Hussain wanted to know how they see themselves – and to give them the authority over their identity with portraits.
The photographer tells Clove about the questions of masculinity, self-esteem, identity and religion that emerged during his project, You Get Me?
Conducted over a nine-year period, photographer Mahtab Hussain’s latest project is a series of portraits of Muslim men titled You Get Me? The conversations he had during the process explored how his subjects negotiated masculinity, self-esteem, identity and religion amid the hostility they face in contemporary Britain. He told us more as he prepared to launch of a book of the images.
MAHTAB HUSSAIN’S exhibition “You Get Me”?, at Autograph ABP in London, comprises 24 portraits of young South Asian Muslim men in working-class neighbourhoods of Nottingham, London and Birmingham. Mr Hussain hopes to stimulate conversation around one of the most maligned groups in Britain, many of whom feel designated a threat to their country, and how growing up exposed to hostility can feed alienation and dislocation. Mr Hussain talked The Economist through the exhibition before the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London. In their wake, the themes of “You Get Me?” are yet more urgent.
Stepping into East London’s Autograph Gallery for Mahtab Hussain’s You Get Me? exhibition, you find yourself staring at the faces of 25 beautiful men and boys. An almost tangible quality of masculinity, boldness and bravado pulsates from the portraits adorning the walls. Each subject is captured in a particular moment of everyday life – a boy celebrates the last day of school, another is showing off the patterns cut into his hair and one young man is smoking a joint. But what is it about these images that we can’t tear our eyes away from?
London-based photographer Mahtab Hussain’s project “You Get Me?” is a portrait series depicting young, Muslim, British men. A Briton of Pakistani heritage, Hussain knows community well. His generation of young men has come of age in a post-9/11 world in which thorny ideas of identity come with far more barbs. For Hussain, these young men represent a “voice of hybridity” that ultimately is the future of the world but they are at present besieged by reactionary forces. Hussain’s portraits, which were exhibited this spring at Autograph ABP gallery in London and published by MACK, show how this population chooses to define itself amid this uncertainty and hostility.
Walking past an exhibition which featured faces similar to mine, I stopped in my tracks, knowing I had to sit down with artist Mahtab Hussain. His exhibition “You Get Me?” encapsulates young, Muslim men in Britain of the past decade. We spoke about the trouble with masculinity globally, the disconnect of identities in South Asian communities and genuine representation.
You Get Me? addresses the contested political terrain of race and representation, respect and cultural difference. The men portrayed in Hussain’s portraits identify as Muslim, and expressed that they felt culturally ridiculed by the constant flow of derogatory media representation of their lives. The 24 portraits in this exhibition, on view at Autograph ABP in London, examine how the weight of masculinity impacts the subject’s sense of self, as they navigate the complex identity formations historically placed upon them.
Hussain photographed the series over a nine-year period in Birmingham – where he grew up – stopping individuals in the street and starting conversations as he took their portrait. He later expanded the project to London and Nottingham. “Mahtab Hussain’s work is a timely investigation into the current politics around migration and identity,” says curator Mark Sealy. A photobook of You Get Me? is also published by MACK to coincide with the exhibition.
In the wake of the Westminster and Manchester attacks, an exhibition in London brings out what it means to be a working-class Muslim youth in Britain today
WHAT DOES IT mean to be a Muslim in today’s Britain? Recent events have put a question mark on Britain’s relationship with the outside world and on the perception of Muslims in its society.
Right-minded folk should be aware of the ‘derogatory media representation’ (as the publicity for this show mildly puts it) of the lives of ordinary Muslims. Mahtab Hussain is making waves by challenging this in his bold photography project You Get Me?, which kicked off in Birmingham in 2008 and visited London and Nottingham too, in […]
Mahtab Hussain’s long-running photo series documents feelings of angst, alienation, and displacement through portraits of young Muslim males in the UK
Mahtab Hussain was working at the National Portrait Gallery when he first realised that none of the work surrounding him reflected his own experience as a British Asian. “It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I was invisible in these spaces, spaces that I love and hold so dear in my life,” he notes. “I thought I would find those artists while working in a museum environment, but shockingly I never did, so in 2008 I decided swap sides and become an artist to help bridge this gap.”
My latest exhibition You Get Me? focusses on the changing identity of young, working-class Asian men in contemporary Britain. Produced over a nine-year period (2008–2017), during which the artist travelled around Birmingham, and later in Nottingham and London, photographing, researching and documenting, the series portrays the dynamic relationship between identity, heritage and displacement. The men portrayed in my portraits identify as Muslim, and clearly express that they feel culturally ridiculed by the constant flow of derogatory media representation of their lives.
British Pakistani Mahtab Hussain was 20 at the time of 9/11. He noticed how attitudes towards British Muslims changed. Since then a new generation has grown up vilified in the media, “continually told they don’t belong” even though they “embrace a strong sense of Britishness”.
Over nine years in Birmingham, Nottingham and London, Hussain took hundreds of portraits of young, working class, British Muslim men. Each came from a chance encounter on the street. He would talk to them about their representation, and tell them this was their chance to paint their own picture…
While photographer Mahtab Hussain was working at the National Portrait Gallery in London, he was struck by how poorly represented Muslim British Asians are in Western fine art portraiture. At the same time, he saw how boys and men like himself are widely labelled as terrorists, extremists and sexual predators, because of the colour of their skin.
To help offer an alternative to that hurtful and harmful narrative, Hussain approached strangers in streets across England and asked them if he could take their portrait. The result is his project ‘You Get Me’, which depicts British Asian men not as some violent, homogenous group, but as diverse can capable of being soft, thoughtful and vulnerable.
These powerful photographs capture the experiences and lives of young working-class Muslim men in Britain.
Photographer Mahtab Hussain, 35, has dedicated nine years of his life to document race, representation and cultural difference in his work.
In his ‘You Get Me’ series, he showcases men who identify as Muslims and documents their lives in Britain today.
From boxing gyms to bedrooms, photographer Mahtab Hussain asserts the humanity of British Muslims in an age when they are often demonised
In his series You Get Me?, Mahtab Hussain documents the rich variety of male, working-class, British Muslim identity. An exhibition of the work is at Autograph, London, until 1 July; a book, You Get Me?, will be published by Mack in June. All photographs by Mahtab Hussain
Mahtab Hussain, a British artist of Pakistani descent, had grown tired of the simplistic narratives that portrayed Muslims as either refugees or terrorists. While in art school, and later at the National Portrait Gallery in London, he was irked that no one had done any projects about Asians and Muslims like him.
So he decided to do one.
A series focusing in on young British Asian men hopes to fight back against the negative media stereotypes post 9/11
“When 9/11 happened, I was four, so obviously I didn’t really know what was going on. But in terms of now, of how Muslims are portrayed in the media, I think it’s a very one-sided story. We’re all terrorists, evil, who want to take over this country. I mean, thinking back now, I was only four, so all I’ve experienced is that this country hates me.”
So says one of the sitters in Mahtab Hussain’s You Get Me?, a series of portraits shot over nine years in Birmingham, Nottingham and London. It shows young, working class, British Asian men, the kind of people who have been negatively depicted in the media since 9/11 but who Hussain hopes to portray in a more nuanced way.
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Mahtab Hussain’s photographic portraits of Muslim men in the UK explore complex themes of identity and marginalisation. He says Muslim men in Britain have had a “plethora of labels” thrown on them – from terrorist to sexual groomer – and that they are struggling to find their place in society. An exhibition of his work, ‘You Get Me?’, just opened at London’s Autograph ABP.
In this week’s Shaikh Debate, Mim looks into whether there is there a crisis of masculinity for Asian men in 2017. He is joined by singer Leo Kalyan, photographer Mahtab Hussain and journalist Asma Uddin.
“What does it mean to be a Muslim man in Britain today? It’s a question with not one answer but as many as there are male Muslim voices from North to South and all the villages, towns and cities in between. Photographer Mahtab Hussain began documenting the faces of working class Muslim men on the streets in Birmingham, where he grew up, back in 2008. Nine years on, the project has grown into a complex visual portrait of the British Muslim male experience in not only Birmingham, but Nottingham and London too.”
“Over a period of nine years, Mahtab Hussain photographed young, working class, Muslim men in Birmingham, London and Nottingham.
The portraits form the basis of his new photo series and exhibition You Get Me? which will be on display at the Autograph ABP gallery in Shoreditch, London from Friday 5 May…”
“These are trying times for the subjects of Mahtab Hussain’s latest work. The artist’s series of portraits titled ‘You Get Me?’ is a timely look at young, working class South Asian men, who identify as Muslim. A community that is at once under pernicious state surveillance, as well as increasing intimidation from an emboldened far-right. Born out of seeing a distinct lack of these voices throughout art history – Hussain embarked upon a nine-year journey that took him through London, Birmingham and Nottingham, meeting and speaking to young men whose portraits are now being shown at the Autograph Gallery in London…”
Mahtab Hussain photographs British South Asian men who are sick of “proving how British they are, whilst at the same time being told how un-British they are”.
Nine years in the making, Mahtab Hussain‘s latest exhibition ‘You Get Me?’ is both a testimony to the amount of time required to create a body of work of this breadth but also to his own artistic commitment to a line of enquiry. What began as series of chance encounters on the streets of his hometown of Birmingham in 2008 evolved into a journey across the UK on a mission to create a fuller picture of what it means to be a British muslim working class man today.
Photographer Mahtab Hussain has spent years exploring what it means to be a young British Muslim, looking at race and representation, respect and cultural difference in a community under attack.
“Masculinity is also brought to the foreground. Themes of friendship, independence and authority exude through Hussain’s portraits. And modern portrayals of the alpha male remain as a lingering subject within his project.”
In his timely series, You Get Me?, photographer Mahtab Hussain addresses the “contested political terrain of race and representation, respect and cultural difference” in the UK. His images ultimately explore the critical question of identity among young, working class British Asian men.
Shown in an upcoming exhibition at London’s Autograph ABP gallery, the men portrayed in Hussain’s portraits identify as Muslim, and expressed that they felt culturally ridiculed by the constant flow of derogatory media representation of their lives.
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