A Lebanese Photographer Takes Cross-Cultural Portraits of Girls on the Brink of Womanhood
Series: L'Enfant Femme
Image rights: Rania Matar
L’Enfant-Femme are portraits of young teens and pre-teens and 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 own poses. 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 this age begin to experience.
For some, even though they are not smiling, one can see their sense of selfhood and their almost sensual pleasure in being photographed and in engaging the camera, while others are almost defiant in the way only teens can be, and others still are more separate from the camera, show more angst, are more self-conscious or look away. These are all emotions girls this age alternatively experience as they become aware of whom they are, of their changing bodies, their beauty, and their womanhood, but also of the world around them and the standards of beauty and attitudes they think they need to emulate. However, these are also still young girls who fluctuate between being the children they still are and the young women they are beginning to turn into. Are they (and we) meant to see themselves as little girls, as teenagers, or as young women?
This body of work was inspired by my thirteen-year-old daughter who was transforming before my eyes, alternating between being the little girl I knew and the young woman I didn’t know yet. I photographed girls in the U.S. where I live and in Lebanon where I am originally from. These are not meant to be a comparison, on the contrary, as the lines blur quickly. Regardless of place, background and religion, girls that age everywhere seem united by similar feelings, aspirations and attitudes.
Lebanese, b. 1964, Beirut, Lebanon, based in Massachusetts, United States