Rania Matar: L'Enfant-Femme
Portfolio Introduction
L'Enfant-Femme

"L'Enfant-Femme" (the Child-Woman) are portraits of young teens and pre-teens, investigating how they interact with the camera. The only instruction I give the girls is not to smile and I allow them to fall into their poses as they wish. My aim is to portray the girl when allowed to pose herself as she wishes in front of 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 that age experience.

For some, even though they are not smiling, one can see their sense of selfhood and the almost sensual pleasure in being photographed and in engaging the camera, while others are almost defiant in the way only teens know how to be, and others still are more separate from the camera, show more angst, are more self-conscious or look away. Those are all emotions girls of that age alternatively experience as they start being aware of who they are, of their changing bodies, their beauty, their womanhood, but also of the world around them and the standards of beauty and attitudes they think they need to emulate. They are, however, also still young girls who fluctuate between being the child they still are and the young woman they are beginning to turn into. Are they (and are we meant to see them as) little girls, teenagers, or young women?

This work was inspired by my previous project A Girl and Her Room where the focus was on the older teen within her private space. I felt I wanted to get closer and focus on the girl herself and not on the space, and simultaneously my thirteen year old daughter is transforming before my eyes, alternating between being the little girl I know and a young woman I don’t know yet. The focus is now on the younger teen, her expressions, her gestures and her body language instead of the space she occupies. I am photographing girls in the US where I live and in Lebanon where I am originally from. The two locations are not meant to be a comparison, on the contrary, the lines blur quickly. Regardless of place, background and religion, girls that age everywhere seem united by similar feelings, aspirations and attitudes. I hope to photograph these girls every year through their adolescence.

The images are shot on medium format film and scanned. Exhibition prints are 30”x 40” pigment prints on Baryta paper.

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