Artwork by Mahtab Hussain

Mahtab Hussain:
You Get Me?

Gain an insight into the lives of young working-class British Asian men and boys.

Mahtab Hussain’s photographs explore the critical question of identity among young working-class British Asian men and boys. Hussain’s starting point for the project was the question, ‘what does it mean to be a British Muslim male today?’

Over a nine-year period, he photographed 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. The men depicted in his portraits identify as Muslim, and expressed they felt ridiculed by the constant flow of negative media representation of their lives. The title of the exhibition is a phrase that Hussain repeatedly heard in his conversations with the young men. ‘You get me?’ is an urban street expression that can sometimes be used in an aggressive way, but also expresses vulnerability and uncertainty: Do you understand me? Do you know where I’m coming from?

Presented with quotes in the voices of the young men themselves, each of the 24 large-scale portraits in the exhibition tells a unique story of boyhood and manhood. Together, they present a collective picture on how these young men negotiate masculinity, self-esteem, social identity and religion in a multi-cultural society. Mahtab Hussain says, ‘These young men face unemployment, discrimination, and racism. Yet, they identify with Britain and have a strong sense of Britishness. I didn’t want to make portraits that made you feel sorry for these young men. I wanted to show that despite the pressures, these men have still found a way to hold themselves up as proud and dignified people, albeit with complex and often conflicting identities’.

This is the first time that this acclaimed exhibition from Autograph ABP has been seen outside London.


Thanks to our partners, funders and sponsors:

You Get Me? is curated by Mark Sealy at Autograph ABP. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Artwork by Mahtab Hussain
Shemagh, Beard and Bling, from the series You Get Me? © Mahtab Hussain
Artwork by Mahtab Hussain
Green Chalk Stripe Suit (detail) from You Get Me? © Mahtab Hussain
Artwork by Mahtab Hussain
Red T-Shirt, Baseball Jacket, Car from You Get Me? by Mahtab Hussain
Artwork by Mahtab Hussain
Teenager, swing and last day at school © Mahtab Hussain

Artist

  • Portrait of Mahtab Hussain

    Mahtab Hussain

    Mahtab Hussain uses photography to investigate the dynamic relationship between identity, heritage and displacement. Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1981, Hussain began his series You Get Me? in 2008. Hussain’s work has received wide recognition, including commissions by Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), Multistory (West Bromwich) and New Art Exchange (Nottingham). His photography has been shown internationally, and reviewed in publications such as the Guardian, the Telegraph and The Huffington Post. His work is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (USA). Books featuring Hussain’s work include the monographs The Quiet Town of Tipton (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2015) The Commonality of Strangers (New Art Exchange, 2015), and You Get Me? (MACK, 2017).

You Get Me exhibition at Impressions Gallery

Our visitors say...

“Amazing! The exhibition has changed my view on identities. Pictures which tell 1000 words!”

“Outstanding photography which demonstrates the breadth of young Muslim men in our society.”

“A very expressive insight into what us second generation Muslims think and feel. Well done, you hit it on the nail.”