One incredibly inspiring photographer is beautifully reminding us that, even though we may be different individuals, we are really all are fundamentally the same. This artist’s name is Rania Matar, and her recent series L’Enfant-Femme evokes this feeling so perfectly.
The series is an exploration of girls’ coming-of-age transition in the US and the Middle East. Specifically, she focused on the area around Boston, where she lives, and Lebanon, where she was born. Although these two cultures, and their approach to femininity, seem so different, the surprising reality she captures is that the transition is a relatively universal experience.
“These are the same transitions, here [in the US], or there,” said Matar in an interview with HG. “There’s a universality to how they deal with it. For me, I’m the same whether I’m Lebanese or American. We create barriers, but this series is [a way] to break those down.”
There are parallels throughout this series, in the way the girls cross their arms to how they tilt their chins. One great example is in the spread below, with the almost mirror image between Molly, a 12-year-old from Brookline, Mass., and Samira, a 12-year-old in the Bourj El Barajneh Refugee Camp in Beirut.
One interesting aspect of working with girls of this age, Matar explained, is that most of them have never really experienced a film camera, even though they’re very used to being photographed with their phones.
“The selfie smile is identical around the world,” she said. “They had to let that go.”
After the photograph was taken, they expected to be able to see the pictures. The fact that they couldn’t took them completely out of their comfort zone, she said, and they started taking it more seriously.
“The only instruction I give the girls is not to smile and I allow them to fall into their own poses,” Matar says in her project statement for the series. Her goal is simply to portray the girl as she is, when allowed to pose herself independently and interact with the camera.
“I try to capture alternatively the angst, the self-confidence or lack thereof, the body language, the sense of selfhood and the developing sense of sexuality and womanhood girls this age begin to experience,” she writes.