Mahtab Hussain

Yesterday I went to the guest lecture from Mahtab Hussain, a British social commentary photographer. I found this really helpful as I want to go down the documentary route with my own work, and Mahtab’s work and the way he talked about the projects and the people that he met and photographed was inspiring. He uses photography to explore the relationship between identity, heritage and displacement. The themes of the project have developed through his long-term photographic research and his images challenge the current concepts of multiculturalism. Before he photographed the people he spent a very long time getting to know the community and the people to fully understand what he was doing, which I think is important in this kind of work.

‘You Get Me?’

“This series addresses the changing identity of young, British, working class Asian men in Birmingham, England… At the centre of Hussain’s work is the struggle these young men face as they attempt to develop a sense of identity in contemporary Britain… What these intimate portraits reveal is a crisis of the individual, divided between a profound sense to belong and to assimilate, while set against the pull of cultural and religious restraints.” (Taken from the statement about ‘You Get Me?’ on his site.)

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‘Muslim Ghettos’

“Following the Second World War and the break up of the British Empire, Pakistanis were invited by English employers to fill labour shortages… As a result of modern conflicts, Muslims from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia, among others, have settled in these same areas, resulting in a perpetual cycle of poverty and struggle. These areas are commonly referred to as Muslim ghettos. Hussain examines how this shift in ownership has impacted a country that was once predominantly English.”

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I think these type of photographs of just objects, the areas and buildings work really well as they make you wonder who the things belong to, what’s the story behind the images and locations and although they don’t reveal people they’re really intriguing.


Eugene Richards

‘Dorchester Days’

I was drawn to this work by Eugene Richards because of his use of black and white documentary photography, which in a way reminded me of the black and white film photographs I shot despite the content being different.

The work is a social document of his hometown of Dorchester in Massachusets.  It is a deeply personal look at the tight-knit, working class community in which he was born and raised.

“An honest, gritty, and searing view of urban America not long after the mass exodus to the suburbs was complete but before the rebirth and gentrification of American cities began.” (The New York Photo Festival)

I think that the photo’s do look very honest, like Eugene was set back, observing and capturing things truthfully as they happened.

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People and their environments

-A few months ago I shot a set of documentary style photos as personal work to experiment with a different style of practice to what I had been doing in VP. I took these on meduim format and some aren’t correctly exposed, but I find the series on a whole worked out better than expected.
-These photographs are based on ‘the person and their environment’, how this shows viewers part of their identity. In these photographs the person is my dad and his garage, which is an environment that he spends a lot of time in, from building it himself to what he uses the space for; his own personal gym, storage for all his tools and where he carries out work.


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More photos show on 35mm around the same time.






Plans for this term

Social documentary photography – the recording of humans in their natural condition with a camera.

In the first term of year 3 I plan to experiment quite a lot with social documentary of people and places. I’m interested in photographing people along with objects and environments in which they spend time; the relationship between a person and their environment in which they live or work in on a daily basis. I also want to think about communities and identities and how I could photograph these things; and where I could begin finding these people to photograph.

My time is split between Nottingham and my hometown in Yorkshire, two areas with different types of communities. I may start by photographing in both places in this first term and just keep exploring different subjects. I’ve been out today and walked around an area in Nottingham close to where I’m living and immediately saw many interesting photo opportunities just with the buildings that exist there. I plan to walk around again but with my camera and see what I can get.