No matter their background, that universality can be seen in each portrait, captured at the pause between childhood and adulthood. Take Clara, only 8 years old, who poses like a mini odalisque, but sports a single chipped blue nail and friendship bracelets stacked on her wrists. Shayna, 10 years old, finds herself similarly in transition. She stares confidently at the camera, crossing her legs with a newfound awareness that parts of her body should stay hidden. A bandaid on her knee, however, hints at the scrapes that come from long hours of summer play.
“The details of the body language are important, and sometimes they show that duality,” explained Matar. “I’m looking for that complexity in the way they hold themselves.”
Matar doesn’t pose her subjects; rather, she lets them move in front of the camera at will. They choose their own outfits, too: In her earliest portrait of 9-year-old Dania, the girl selected a purple keyhole tank top and hot-pink shorts, her toenails painted deep red and her hair adorned with a crown of butterfly clips. She topped off the look with a hand placed cheekily on her hip. Other girls show less outward confidence in front of the camera. Yasmine, 12, clutches a pillow in front of her body, while Tynia, 12, wraps her arms protectively around her torso. Two other 12-year-old girls come from very different backgrounds, yet share the same stance: Both Molly, photographed in her home in Massachusetts, and Samira, photographed in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, cock their legs confidently to the side, arms crossing their chests.