We were lucky enough to host Mahtab Hussain on Wednesday 7th December. Mahtab is an ex-student of Joseph Chamberlain (A’levels in Photography, Media and Performing Arts), and is now a very important and internationally successful artist who explore the important relationship between identity, heritage and displacement.
He began with a detailed presentation that documented his education and awards he has won, as well as his commissions and residencies. It was exciting to hear about the group and solo exhibitions he has been involved in. Mahtab explained to the students about the importance of the area surrounding the college, and what a rich resource it is for photographers and documentary work.
Mahtab’s most well known body of work “You Get Me?”, addresses the changing identity of young, British, working class Asian men in Birmingham, England. During the course of his research, Hussain was often reminded that this specific community identified primarily with Islam, notably to the exclusion of all other associations. Whilst understanding that this was an inherent aspect of defining who these men are, the artist chose to capture and focus on other areas of their complex identity, attempting whenever possible to shift the emphasis away from religion.
Some of the portraits were taken around Balsall Heath, have a distinctly ‘Birmingham feel’ to them, and are now of international interest.
After the talk, the students asked a series of well thought out questions and were really appreciative. Following on from this was the workshop. A select group of students were chosen to accompany Mahtab on a walking tour around Ladypool Road. The aim of the walking tour workshop was to get the students taking some street portraits. Mahtab gave away a few tricks of his trade and encouraged students to be more confident in approaching strangers. The workshop was incredibly successful, with some great photographs taken, and it was brilliant watching the students confidence increase over the period of just an hour.
Mahtab’s visit was really inspiring for the students, especially as he is a former student. His next big show this year is at Autograph ABP in London. www.mahtabhussain.com
We would like to thank Mahtab for giving up his time and coming back to work with our students.