Becoming is a continuum of Rania Matar’s work from the past several years, and it’s a feast to view her multiple projects together. Through this collection of portraits, Matar leads us through many stages in the life of a woman. She photographs girls and young women from the US and from Lebanon, her country of origin. Matar notes, “These are not meant to be a comparison, on the contrary, as the lines blur quickly. Regardless of place, background and religion, girls that age everywhere seem united by similar feelings, aspirations and attitudes.”
The word “becoming” speaks to the whole cycle of growth but is perhaps best seen in two projects. In a still-developing body of work, Matar has returned to re-photograph the young women in the same environment as they’ve aged. In the tradition of the Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra, she has patiently employed the element of time, and it powerfully charts the change of growing up.
In “Unspoken Conversations” Matar photographs young women with their mothers, a different and equally potent vision of growing older. The viewer is left to marvel at the similarities, imagining the form one woman came from, projecting the form the other may eventually take. Mother and daughter mirror one another and differentiate themselves like shifting magnetic poles. The women exchange gestures that take on new meaning as they echo one another.
The profundity of each portrait compounds upon the next. As viewers, we are drawn into the subtlety of pose and attention to detail that Matar uses to weave together her portraits. The poised and refined quality of Matar’s composition contrasts the very real vulnerability of her subjects. It gives her images an unusual beauty; the sophisticated adult aesthetic of the female image maker creates a graceful vehicle for the spontaneous and unfiltered self presentation of the young subjects. The resulting imagery is carefully sensitive to its subjects, while still revealing the complex world of emotions they inhabit.
Rania Matar is one of Pictura Gallery’s represented artists. Additional information and images can be viewed by visiting picturagallery.com/raniamatar.