Rania Matar’s portraits depict girls and teenagers in the U.S. and the Middle East, posed at home in living rooms and hallways, on sofas and porches and “frequently in a threshold which is perhaps a metaphor for the emotional space these girls are in and/ or about to enter,” writes Kristen Gresh in a book of Matar’s work. “Becoming,” a show opening today and on view until February 21 at Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, includes a selection of images from several of Matar’s series. Among them are “A Girl and Her Room,” which pictures teenagers in their most private spaces, “Unspoken Conversations,” a study of young women and their mothers, “L’Enfant-Femme,” in which girls pose themselves and try on a range of adult and childlike identities, and the series from which the show takes its name, “Becoming,” which revisits the girls in “L’Enfant-Femme” a few years later.
In a statement, Matar describes approach to working with subjects who are increasingly used to photographing themselves: “With the intent of keeping them away from the “selfie” poses that they are trained to perform for the camera, I only ask the girls not to smile and I allow them to fall into their own poses. As I am using medium format film camera, they cannot instantly see the photographs. Accustomed to the instant gratification of viewing themselves through digital photography, the girls experience the suspense of not knowing immediately how they will be represented and they take the photo session more seriously.”
Despite the differences in socioeconomic standing and location between her subjects—some live in comfortable homes in Boston and its suburbs or in Beirut, others in refugee camps, “what persists is the similarities between the girls,” writes HM Queen Noor in a foreword to the book L’Enfant-Femme. “All portray the uniqueness of their age, of the transition from child to young adult.”