L'Enfant-Femme | Photographs by Rania Matar
Photographs by Rania Matar. Introduction by Her Majesty Queen Noor. Text by Lois Lowry. Afterword by Kristen Gresh. Damiani Editore, 2016. 152 pp,. 97 color illustrations, 9.5 x 12.5".
Rania Matar taught a portrait workshop at the 2017 Filter Photo Festival. Her creative vision and in depth knowledge of working with people inspired the participants to dig deeper into their own portrait work. This compelling collection of images is perfect inspiration for anyone looking to capture portraits.
In today’s world of endless photographing, tagging and posting images online, what is a pre-teen girl’s relationship to the camera? Upending assumptions of contemporary digital image-making practices, photographer Rania Matar (born 1964) reframes these young women through her poignant portraits of them, revealing in L’Enfant-Femme how girls between the ages of 8 and 13 interact with the camera and in so doing depicts them in deeply personal and poetic ways. Addressing themes of representation, voyeurism and transgression, these images remind us of the fragility of youth while also gesturing toward its unbridled curiosity and joy. Photographing girls in the Middle East and the United States, Matar makes us examine our universality, a beauty that transcends place, background and religion. Candidly capturing her subjects at a critical juncture in the early stages of adolescence, Matar conveys the confluence of angst, sexuality and personhood that defines the progression from childhood into adulthood.
"From our first meeting I sensed a kindred spirit in Rania Matar. We are both women of two worlds, striving to bridge the divides between cultures, both passionate about the rights of women and those who are disempowered. She grew up in Beirut and moved to America in the wake of civil war. I am Arab-American by birth, raised and educated in a Judeo-Christian society before leaving to work in the Middle East. I embraced Islam shortly before marrying a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, HM King Hussein of Jordan. Rania and I are two among millions for whom Western and Middle Eastern cultures are not mutually exclusive worldviews destined for confrontation. Rather, they combine to shape who we are and what we believe.
All this is exemplified in the beautiful and sensitive images in Rania's stunning book, L'Enfant-Femme. These moving photographs evoke a fundamental sense of cross-cultural understanding. Matar strips away the confines of societal labels from both herself and the girls she photographs. She exposes the boundaries of American and Arab cultures in order to reconcile them. They are not simply American; they are not simply Arab; neither are they simply Muslim, Christian, nor Jewish. These girls are simply girls – but much more besides. These are images of girls at the point where they are beginning to become women – a powerful combination of youth, womanhood and beauty."
– excerpt from the Introduction by Her Majesty Queen Noor