For the majority of his childhood in South Birmingham, Mahtab Hussain was harassed for the colour of his skin. Constantly pestered by children at school, he was even heckled on the street by strangers yelling out their car windows. “I didn’t really see my own colour as a problem, but for 10 years of my life it became a huge issue,” he says.
The title of his new book, Going Back Home To Where I Came From, is inspired by the racist insults he endured growing up. The project is a document of his trip to Kashmir in 2016, where he spent three weeks in his mother’s rural hometown, Kotli.
Launched on 11 December, a brand new biannual, Clove, has a refreshing take on art and culture. Founded by London-based, British-Indian journalist Debika Ray, the magazine focuses on creative work from South Asia and its global diaspora. “My impression was always that, in Western media, there was a narrow frame of reference when it came to covering parts of the world beyond North America and Europe,” says Ray, who until recently was senior editor at the architecture and design magazine Icon. “Stories from South Asia or the Middle East are often handled in a distant way, focusing on problems or crises and how people battle against odds to overcome things. I wanted to tell stories from those parts of the world in a way that were instead built on their own merit.”
“When 9/11 happened, I was four, so obviously I didn’t really know what was going on. But in terms of now, of how Muslims are portrayed in the media, I think it’s a very one-sided story. We’re all terrorists, evil, who want to take over this country. I mean, thinking back now, I was only four, so all I’ve experienced is that this country hates me.” So says one of the sitters in Mahtab Hussain’s You Get Me?, a series of portraits shot over nine years in Birmingham, Nottingham and London. It shows young, working class, British Asian men, a group which has been negatively depicted in the media since 9/11 but which Hussain hopes to portray in a more nuanced way.
The Portrait Issue returns this September just as The British Journal of Photography launches the return of Portrait of Britain, which will once again appear on digital JCDecaux screens across the country, in partnership with photography giant Nikon. Portraits have a rare capacity to capture a person, family and community in a way that reshapes a narrative or empowers an entire group of people. Each photoseries in this issue manages to shed new light on an individual or group and move beyond stereotypes to find a more honest truth – whether with a Roma group in the south of France, or a working class neighbourhood in The Netherlands.