Andrea, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010
Siena, Brookline, Massachusetts, 2009
Brigitte and Huguette, Ghazir, Lebanon, 2014
Soraya and Tala, Yarze, Lebanon, 2014
In the wake of the biggest feminist movement since the sexual revolution, far from the smoke and mirrors of Hollywood activism, Lebanese-American photographer Rania Matar is presenting an honest and raw image of womanhood. The artist’s new exhibit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth —In Her Image: Photographs by Rania Matar — explores how the female identity is shaped over time and across cultures.
Through portraits of women across the world, Matar captures something disarming and poignant about the female experience, and the human experience as a whole.
The show combines three portfolios of the photographer’s work, all produced in the United States and the Middle East. L’enfant Femme is a series of portraits of young girls transitioning out of childhood and into teenagedom. The photographer instructed the girls not to smile and let them pose freely. The resulting images capture the angst and developing sense of selfhood brewing within the young women.
A Girl & Her Room depicts teenage girls from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in the personal world of their bedrooms. In Massachusetts, one girl gazes at her laptop below a wall plastered with torn-out photos from magazines. A girl in Lebanon perches on an armchair beneath a massive Marilyn Monroe poster, a pink bra hanging on the doorknob beside her. As curator Joy Kim wrote, they are “surrounded by material artifacts that form those critical parts of their emergent identities as women.”
The most recent series in the exhibit, Unspoken Conversations explores the complex and often difficult relationships between mothers and daughters. The photos have a sense of tenderness and tension, intimacy and dissonance.
Together, the work speaks volumes about the universally mysterious process of growing up and growing old; the way that we see ourselves and the way we see others. Matar has brought out the similarities and shared experiences between these young women without stripping them of individuality.
The photographs transcend cultural differences and societal labels to show girls as they want to be shown. And, even in 2018, that’s not as common as you’d think.