Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis campus only



First Advisor

Yinshi Lerman-Tan

Second Advisor

Jinli He


My thesis argues that Mahtab Hussain’s photographs offer a distinct model for representing British Asian and British Muslim experiences through a kind of ‘intimate ethnography’ which addresses the lasting legacy of empire, avoids fetishism or objectification, and foregrounds the agency of each subject. I assert that Hussain’s photographs are intended to build a sense of empathy and even intimacy with the people he photographs while resisting the potentially voyeuristic tendencies of photography. Hussain synthesizes fine art portraiture, ethnography, and aspects of documentary art to create representations of collective identities that do not homogenize or erase individual differences. Instead, his practice balances his interest in portraying these collective identities while emphasizing the agency of his subjects. He addresses both the exploitative aspects of historic ethnographic and documentary photography and the contemporary omnipresence of surveillance to find new modes of representation that are based on affiliation with the subject rather than establishing difference between subject and viewer.