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Mahtab Hussain

Mahtab Hussain is an award-winning international social commentary artist, born 1981. Working mainly in portraiture, Hussain sees his practice as an exchange between artist and sitter, placing considerable emphasis on the empowerment of the sitter, to create portraits that force and represent a vital interaction between sitter, spectator, audience and the public.

Hussain studied a BA in History of Art at Goldsmith College specialising in fine art photography and received an MA in Photography at Nottingham Trent University with the support of the Arts Humanities Research Council.

Currently Hussain’s You Get Me? series is being jointly published by Autograph ABP and Dewi Lewis Publishing with the support of Arts Council England, contributors include Charles Guice, Dr David Dibosa and Dr Les Back. Dewi Lewis Publishing also recently published The Quiet Town of Tipton, which was a commission by Multistory.

Hussain has been recipient of numerous awards and commissions including, Arts Council England; Arts Humanities Research Council (AHRC); winner of the Curators Choice Award, Culture Cloud at New Art Exchange and of Format 13 Portfolio Review Award for most significant review. He was selected as the 2015 Light Work + Autograph ABP Artist-in-Residence.

In 2016 the artist will be exhibiting You Get Me? under the prestigious Discoveries Award at Houston FotoFest chosen from 500 international artists. The series will debut in the UK at Autograph ABP, London in 2017, curated by Mark Sealy. You Get Me? will then tour to Impressions Gallery, Bradford later that year.

PhD: Photography

Thesis Title: Power, Portraiture, Masculinity and Identity - The Performance Crisis of the British Muslim Male.

Thesis Description:
Hussain's photographic research concerns the idea of an ‘identity crisis’ evident in ‘performances of masculinity’ and will address social roles, patterns of behaviour and environmental constraints. Hussain's PhD research will produce a body of work that will extends the enquiry established by You Get Me? Concurrent with his research into contemporary social/political thinking, he will also consider the historical narrative, addressing the following:

What factors affect this crisis/how does this impact the British Muslim label?

How and why does global cultural violence affect these men?

How do the above impact identity creation?

Supervisors and Institution:

Max Kandhola and Prof Nahem Yousaf, Nottingham Trent University - Art and Design


  • The Quiet Town of Tipton
    Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing
    170mm x 245mm, 96 pages, 56 colour plates
    ISBN: 978-1-907893-72-8
    Published in association with Mulitstory.
  • The Commonality Of Strangers
    Publisher: New Art Exchange
    148.5mm x 210mm, 158 pages, 76 colour plates
    ISBN: 978-0-9560253-8-8

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

Solo Shows

  • New Art Exchange
    The Commonality of Strangers
    – January – April 2015

    Artist in residence as part of the strategic touring bid. Documenting the lives of the migrant community in Hyson Green. The series was exhibited in the main gallery at New Arts Exchange and included a publication, the exhibition received over 9000 visitors, making it one of the most successful exhibitions at the gallery.

  • mac Birmingham –Terrance Gallery
    What does it mean to be a British Pakistani male today? April – October 2012

    Project based exhibition addressing the complexities of the British Pakistani community, funded by Arts Council England though Grants for the Arts award.

  • Subway Gallery – Joe Strummer – London 2011
    Building Desires

    Exhibiting part of my Building Desire series.

Group Shows

  • Eastside Projects
    Birmingham Show – 31 January – 11 April 2015

    Exhibited 4 pieces in the group show, which includes its external billboard.

    Birmingham Show’ is an exhibition as history and not history, connecting gaps, distances and potentials of artists who have lived, worked or studied within the city. Three key questions underpin the exhibition making – ‘What is the art of Birmingham?’ ‘Is there an accent to Birmingham’s art making?’ and ‘How is Birmingham useful for the production of art?’

    Curated by Ruth Claxton & Gavin Wade.
    Special thanks to Marlene Smith.


  • Aperture Gallery - New York City
    Summer Show – 17 July – 14 August 14 2014

    103 prints selected from 860 submissions by Chris Boot, Aperture’s Executive Director, the Aperture Summer Open reflects the state of photography now.


mac Birmingham 
    50 Years On CCCS – 10 May – 29 June 2014
    Group show celebrating The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies exploring how, post-closure, the Centre continues to be relevant and influential today. 
Featuring the work of eminent artists including Trevor Appleson, David Batchelor, Sarah Maple, Sarah Silverwood and Nick Waplington.

  • Library of Birmingham
    The Photographers Wall – 23 January – 18 April 2014

    Launched in January 2014 the space featured works from emerging and established fine art photographers highlight the ambition and talent of some 
of the regions best photographers.

  • Sumarria Lunn Gallery
    Be A Man – 14 March – 19 April 2013

    Group show addressing Modern Masculinity exhibiting with the following artists:
    Claude Cahun / Alexis Hunter / Ali Kazim / Littlewhitehead
    Miguel Rael / Hank Willis Thomas.

  • New Art Exchange
    Culture Cloud – 27 July – 25 August 2012

    An inaugural exhibition showcasing the work of 40 artists selected by public vote to have their works exhibited in the New Art Exchange’ main gallery space.Top 40 exhibiting artist were initially selected from 900 entries.

  • Galerie Huit - Arles
    Open Photography Salon – 23 July -2 September

    International competition, 115 finalists, work selected from 82 participating countries 
Exhibiting during the international Arles Photography Festival.

  • Diemar/Noble Photography
    The Gathering – Rhubarb-Rhubarb – 22 March 2012

    Invited by Rhubarb-Rhubarb to auction two photographic prints participating photographers included Brian Griffin, Martin Parr and Zed Nelson.

  • mac Birmingham
    Anticurate: Exhibition Five – 3 August -11 September 2011

    Open call at mac Birmingham, devised by Trevor Pitt as a platform to explore democratic and collective approaches to exhibition curating.

  • Viewfinder Gallery
    Viewpoints – 5 May – 15 May 2011

    An exhibition of documentary-style photographic projects with Jonathan Illingworth and Andrew Youngson.

  • Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
    West Midlands Open 2010 – 6 March – 2 May 2010

    A biennial collaboration between Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Exhibiting artist, chosen from over 400 entries.


  • Strange Cargo - October 2015
    In conversation with JJ Charlesworth, freelance art critic and associate editor of the London-based international art magazine ArtReview to discuss his work and the current exhibition at Strange Cargo's gallery. The event was part of Museums at Night programme.

  • Cheltenham Literary Festival - October 2015
    Modern Muslim Britain

    Do those who purport to speak for all Muslims reflect the true voice of the faith, particularly among young people? What is the authentic voice of Muslim Britain and how can we understand it better? Join Abdul-Rehman Malik as he tackles these big issues with Sayeeda Warsi, journalist Navid Akhtar and artist Mahtab Hussain. Session followed by Q&A.

  • Maryland Institute College of Art - March 2015
    Artist talk and lecture at MICA followed by critical feedback for 6 final years students.

  • Syracuse University - March 2015
    Artist talk and lecture about my practice.

  • New Art Exchange - January 2015
    In conversation with Sue Steward and Melanie Kidd

  • Nottingham Trent University - October 2013
    Artist talk to MA students about my practice.

  • Birmingham Institute of Art and Design BIAD - October 2013
    Grain Portfolio Development Day Talk.

  • Ikon Gallery - October 2013
    International Perspective conference.

  • AMAN House, Karachi - September 2013
    Artists in Creative Education; panel discussion’ hosted by ArtNow and Vasl Artists’ Collective.

  • Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi - September 2013
    Artist talk to MA students.

  • Joseph Chamberlain College, Birmingham - June 2012
    Artist talk to students.

  • South Birmingham College, Birmingham - November 2012
    Artist talk.

Grants and Awards

  • Houston Foto Fest
    The Discoveries – March 2016

    The Discoveries exhibition is connected to one of the Biennial’s most popular programs – the International Meeting Place – Each of the ten artists has been selected as a particularly significant “discovery” by one of ten international reviewers chosen by FotoFest from the 160 curators, editors, publishers, gallery owners, and collectors who reviewed artists’ work at the 2014 Biennial Meeting Place.

    The work found in the 2016 Discoveries of the Meeting Place is a diverse selection that doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter and new photographic approaches and techniques. It reflects the contemporary world we live in through the artists’ choice of topics and approaches.

Art Humanities Research Council - AHRC
    Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership – October 2015 – October 2018

    Full-time Funded PhD at Nottingham Trent University in Photography.

  • Arts Council England
    Grants for the Arts – You Get Me?

    Grant to support You Get Me? publication with a series of book launches and artist talks across the country.

  • Format13 Portfolio
    Review Award – March 2013

    Chosen by a group of international judges as most significant review of the day from over 80 professional photographers.

Art Humanities Research Council - AHRC
    MA Funding – Photography – October 2012 – November 2013

    Full-time funded Masters at Nottingham Trent University.

  • New Art Exchange
    Culture Cloud – Curators Choice Award

    Awarded First Prize, ‘Curators Choice Award’ from 900 entries.

  • Arts Council England
    Grants for the Arts -2010

    Grant to support project based exhibition and key development stages of Building Desires and mac Birmingham exhibition.

Selected Media

  • The Huffington Post Online – February 2015
    Review by Louise Ridley ‘The Commonality of Strangers’.

  • Nottingham Post – February 2015
    Review by Mark Patterson ‘The Commonality of Strangers’.

  • BBC East Midlands Today - January 2015
    Television interview with Geeta Pendse discussing my New Art Exchange commission and solo show – The Commonality of Strangers.

  • Ceasefire Magazine - January 2015
    Reflections – Displacement and Belonging: ‘Like Travelling the World by Being in One Place’

    Essay by Roger Bromley, an academic and autor who has published and written on postcolonial culture and dispora, refugee and asylum issues.

  • Source Magazine – Issue No 78. Summer 2014 – Featured Artist
    You Don’t Get Me?

    Commissioned essay by Daniel Jewesbury titled You Don’t Get Me? for SOURCE magazine featuring 8 selected works from ‘You Get Me?’

  • The Guardian – 21 April 2014
    As part of the group exhibition at mac Birmingham ’50 Years On: the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies’, my work was featured in The Guardian with a further mention in an article written by Stuart Hall.

  • Emaho Magazine – May 2013 - Online
    Online publication
    featuring 20 selected images from You Get Me? including artist statement.

  • L’Officiel Hommes, Spring/Summer 2013 – Be a Man! - Review
    Four double page spread featuring a selected part of my series ‘You Get Me?’

  • Aesthetica Issue 52 April/May 2013 - Be a Man! - Review
    Exhibition review by Jack Castle highlighting my ‘You Get Me?’ series.

  • Hunter Magazine, Spring/Summer 2013 – Be a Man! – Review
    Two double page spread featuring a selected part of my series ‘You Get Me?’

  • The Telegraph Online - April 2013 – 4 Star Review
    Interviewed by Louise Donovan – ‘Be a Man’ exhibition.

  • The Huffington Post Online – March 2013
    Review by Dr Michael Petry – ‘Be a Man’ exhibition.

  • Redbrick Arts – 8 June 2012
    Arts editor interview – mac Birmingham.

  • Asian Voice – 7 June 2012
    Article – mac Birmingham.

  • Birmingham Post – 23 May 2012
    Double page spread promoting exhibition and showcasing my artist practice.

  • HOTShoe Blog – 9 May 2012
    Review by Miranda Gavin, blogging arm of HotShoe contemporary photography magazine.

  • BBC Asian Network with Nihal broadcast on Friday 27 April 2012, 13:00
    BBC Asian Network with Nihal broadcast on Friday 27 April 2012, 13:00

Other Research Interests:

  • Race and Rights
  • Postcolonial Studies
  • Gender Theory
  • Identity Politics
  • Multiculturalism
  • Power of Portraiture
  • Global Culture
  • History


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