Interview by Nina Manandhar
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.
Hussain sees his work as firmly rooted in a tradition of British portraiture, citing his time working at the National Portrait Gallery and his MA at Goldsmiths in Art History where he specialised in Post Colonial studies as equally influential in shaping his understanding of transformative possibilities in art, but also enabling him to experience first hand the lack of work reflecting the British – Asian experience. Seen together, they explain his drive to pursue projects which create a place for his subjects in visual history, to fill a gap where representation is either missing or a product of misinformation.
With his subjects now immortalised in an upcoming book published by Mack alongside the exhibition this May at Autograph ABP, his term long-term engagement with the community and empathy with his sitters has clearly paid off, ‘I don’t think work can be made any other way, it is about getting to know one another, sharing stories’ he tells me. Ahead of the show, we spoke to Hussain about the enduring power of fine art portraiture, masculinity in the 21st Century and the complex relationship between identity, heritage and displacement, themes which his work navigates.
The release for the exhibition describes the portraits as exploring the identity of young ‘Working class’ – rather than just ‘Asian’ men. Can you talk a little about the idea of ‘class’, ‘working class’ and why it’s an important factor in the work?
I believe class plays a critical role in understanding the work. In general, the working class communities of Britain have had to go through real change, essentially from the 80’s onwards which itself was an incredibly destructive time for British society as a whole. Margaret Thatcher and her government purposely broke down community and fostered the idea that there is no such thing as society, livelihoods were destroyed and the unions were dismantled. We were told we should embrace the individual in Britain and the self-made man and woman, which was in direct conflict with the working class concept of community, sisterhood, brotherhood and family. From a migrant perspective, this notion of individualism crushed one of the defining pillars of their culture too, one that advocated for a strong, supportive, collective society, so this era jarred with them considerably as they eventually experienced the same loss of community and society, alongside harbouring feelings of alienation.
Antoine Bruy (1986) is a french photographer graduated from the Vevey School of Photography in Switzerland in 2011. His work studies people and their relationship to privacy, their physical environment, and to the economic and intellectual conditions that determine them. His work has been shown in group shows internationally – Los Angeles, New-York, Paris, Dhaka, Barcelona, Seoul, Angkor. Bruy has been awarded LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards, Getty Images Emerging Talent Awards, Critical Mass 2014 and PDN's 30 in 2015. His photographs have been featured in numerous publications worldwide including The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Guardian, WIRED, Slate, The Huffington Post and Le Monde. He is currently based in Lille, France.
From the wine-dark waters of the Aegean Sea to the back roads of the Balkans, James Nachtwey documents the dangerous passage
Their journey began in war, poverty and oppression. They are fleeing, by the hundreds of thousands, from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, from Somalia, Iran, Pakistan and Eritrea, a ceaseless flow of humanity driven by fear, insecurity and lack of opportunity, their desperation matched only by their fortitude and sense of hope.
Somehow they make it to Turkey, within sight of the Greek island of Lesbos, and embark in a flotilla of frail rubber rafts to the refuge of Europe. Entire families, old folks, young children and infants brave the perilous crossing outfitted with flimsy “life preservers” or inflated inner tubes. Most of them make it across, but some have perished at sea.
Without any fear, children aged 5-9 race on horseback at up to 80km per hour. In Sumbawa Island, West Nusa Tenggara, a horseback racing tradition involves child jockeys. The talent for horseback racing is passed on from generation to generation. Children learn to let go of their fear, even with the very real risk of falling, becoming maimed, or dying during the race.
“It’s getting near show time!” the voice would boom out over the cheers of the punters. Susan Meiselas would hover at first near the back of the tent. “Don’t be shy, take your hands out of your pockets, take your money out of your wallets. Rest your elbows on the stage and look up into the whole, the whole goddamn show. Show time! Where they strip to please, not to tease!”
Susan Meiselas was 24 when she started Carnival Strippers. It was the summer of 1972, and her photography experience was limited to portraits of her housemates in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had just completed an MA from Harvard, yet she still was shy and unsure of herself – very unlike the direct intellect of today, who treats Magnum’s offices like a second home. But in the earliest of these early pictures, she had not yet been invited into the showgirls’ dressing room.
2015 marks the centenary of the Armenian genocide. Many Armenians survived the massacre because they were taken in and hidden by Kurdish or Turkish families. Many of their descendants only found out about their origins decades later. Photographer and Leica Oskar Barnack Award winner Andy Spyra set out in search of their story. We spoke with him about open wounds, the most recent developments and a growing empathy. The full reportage can be found in LFI issue 1/2015.
Q: Why did you choose this subject?
A: I’ve been dealing with the situation of Christians in the Middle East for some years now, and the story of the Armenians is, of course, part of that issue. I also already dealt with the theme of genocide when I was working in Bosnia. So it was obvious for me to take a closer look at the Armenian past and genocide.
They stand against the Islamic State and its caliphate: Véronique de Viguerie portrayed female Kurdish fighters and their lives on the front line, caught between nursing babies and the changing of the guard.
Many of these images originally appeared in Marie Claire
John Langmore is an Austin, Texas based photographer known for his long-term work on East Austin and Oaxaca, Mexico. He grew up in a family of great photographers – most notably his father, Bank Langmore, who established himself as one of the preeminent photographers of the American West in the 1970s. A professional and committed photographer, John tells us about his experience documenting the modern American cowboy.
At a time when photo projects increasingly focus on narrow and idiosyncratic subjects or are altogether conceptual, photographing something as well documented as the American cowboy is a challenge. The cowboy’s iconic status makes it difficult to transcend the clichés that are so often used to describe him. Yet America’s big outfit cowboys, the ones who own little more than the tools of their trade and move frequently between a small number of very large ranches, remain to most mere symbols of an idealized past. And to those that are even aware of his modern existence, few fully understand the life of big outfit cowboys as it exists at the outset of the 21st century.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Colombia, Juan Arredondo is a passionate, socially committed photographer who splits his time between Bogotá and New York City. A member of Reportage, an emerging talent program sponsored by Getty Images, he relocated to the United States to pursue undergraduate and graduate studies in Organic Chemistry and became intensely committed to photography while working as a research scientist at a major pharmaceutical company. His contribution has been acknowledged in the PDN Photo Annual and the PX3 Prix de la Photographie. He was honored as a Flash Forward Emerging Photographers winner by the Magenta Foundation, has been selected to participate in the Eddie Adams Workshop and nominated for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. Juan Arrendondo is a regular contributor to The New York Times. His photographs have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde Magazine, and Der Spiegel. Here, in his own words, is the remarkable narrative of how and why he became committed to documenting the lives of child-soldiers recruited by ELN (National Liberation Army) rebels in Colombia that appears in the latest issue of LFI, on sale now.
Q: What camera and equipment did you use to shoot your Columbian reportage?
A: For this project I used a Leica M and a 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux-M lens.
Sparkle, baby explores girl culture in Australia within the phenomena of beauty pageants, particularly those directed at the young. Through documenting child pageants, I seek to understand if participating in these events increases the pressure on young girls to conform to an idealised view of what it means to be female or rather, is it a celebration of girlhood? It is not about why they compete in child pageants, but rather, who or what in society is telling them to do so?
Whilst from an outsiders perspective pageants may appear unnatural, to the girls participating, pageants are not only fantastical but also mirror the expectations and demands of society, in regards to presentation, and serve as a worthy preparation for later life. A society that believes those who are presented well, who are thinner, or more conventionally beautiful are valued more.
Through allowing me access to their ‘competitive lives’ I have been enabled by these girls to tell their story, not just as individuals, but as part of a developing culture.
Chloe Bartram (b. 1991) is currently on the Editorial Board for The Australian Photojournalist,a non-profit publication that gives voice to those who have been segregated or forgotten by society and mainstream media, and a recent graduate from the Queensland College of Art. Graduating with a Bachelor of Photography, majoring in Photojournalism. Using the conventions of social documentary and photography, Chloe endeavors to explore the idiosyncratic nature of the human condition and in particular the mind and memory. Her most recent work explored the developing culture of child beauty pageants in Australia. This work is realised in book form which can be found here.
Chloe is currently based in Brisbane, Australia and has photographed in Australia and South-East Asia.
text by By Maya Rhodan
The bipartisan Farm Bill that President Obama signed into law on Feb. 7 will cut $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next 10 years. The cut is more like a snip when compared to the nearly $40 billion decrease in funding proposed by Republican lawmakers during the four years it took lawmakers to come to an agreement. For the subjects of this LightBox feature, however, and for the millions like them who depend on SNAP, every little bit that gets chipped away hurts. New York-based photographer Jeff Riedel spent days with each subject, capturing a glimpse into the lives of the 47 million people who depend on government assistance for food.
“When you see that these are really beautiful people, good people doing as much as they can to get by and it’s still not enough,” Riedel said, “you realize that it is easy for the government in all of their callousness to look at things as statistics and as numbers. But when you get in and see the real life humans dealing with real life problems . . . it’s a different sort of process.”
I’ve noticed that a growing number of photographers are trawling junk shops, auction houses and flea markets in search of the discarded negatives of undiscovered and potentially great photographers. This has probably been going on for decades, and I personally have been buying old photographs that said seemed to be worth salvaging for years. However stories like that of Chicago street photographer Vivian Maier, who’s archive of thousands of exposed films was bought in an auction after her death by a curious amateur and turned out to be one of the photographic finds of recent years are raising the profile of this strange practice of photographic archaeology.
My absolute favourite photographer was one of these undiscovered virtuosos, virtually unknown in his own lifetime, in part by choice. Born Mike Meyer in 1884 into an Arkansas farming family, he at some point changed his second name to demonstrate his dislike of his agrarian upbringing. Now named Mike Disfarmer, he became interested in photography and set up a studio on his mother’s porch, later opening one in the local town of Heber Springs where he lived more or less as a recluse, while making his living taking portraits of local people.
Saul Leiter is a rare man among men, he sees with a truth and reveals with honesty the world which sarounds him. He paved the way for so many to follow and without even the slightest glance back, he continued on. His Daeth late last year met with little fan fare, and I cant help feeling he would be happy about it. His images still remain as a testament to him, although if you try to see his secrets within them you may be left cold but not dissapointed. It's the simplicity within his work which fasinates us and makes us look a little deeper into ourselves. This powerful gift provides a catalist for questioning and the inspiration to search for whatever it is we find within that process.
The Documentry 'In No Great Hurry' is a brief whisper, a shadow of someone lost, perhaps willingly so. It aims to glide between his present and his past, the then and the now, in doing so makes us focus on our self doubt and self assumption.
The trick is not to fall for the grey which surrounds him, Saul is no shadow, he is secure in his beleaf and strong in his involvment and in the end I am certain even now after he has left us physically, he is still optimistic that maybe we may observe his work, and we might just see the big picture after all.
IN NO GREAT HURRY is avalable for purchase now for only $10 I hope your as inspired as I was.
If Iranian youth culture was portrayed in a BBC drama, it might be called “Inside, Outside,” or even “Righteous, Raucous.” That is the duality present in Hossein Fatemi’s “An Iranian Journey,” a series that shows young people’s public modesty and piety vanishing once they escape the wary gaze of authority. These youths play music, drink, smoke, commingle and enjoy other intemperate — i.e., regular — Western activities. They are online, on Facebook, and are politically engaged and simmering, craving freer speech but stifled by the ayatollah’s rules.
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Numbered edition of 150 including 25 signed
(signed copies have now gone)
J A Mortram