'L’Enfant-Femme' shows us images of girls on the road to womanhood

 Rania Matar captures individuality and universality in every frame, allowing each girl to engage the camera as she sees fit.

L’Enfant-Femme By Rania Matar Damiani 152 pp.

Photographer Rania Matar’s third publication, L’Enfant-Femme, is a celebration of girlhood in transition. A gifted portraitist, her oeuvre is girls and women. Having moved to the United States from Lebanon to flee civil war in 1984, Matar, a trained architect, began photographing her own children. In return trips home, she documented the diversity of Middle Eastern women’s lives. Today she works in both countries to reveal the essential female self from childhood to womanhood irrespective of cultural differences.

The images are thoughtful, compelling, and honest. Matar captures individuality and universality in every frame, allowing each girl to engage the camera as she sees fit. Her only request: that they do not smile. The result is a complex range of emotions. The journey toward womanhood, with its expectations, demands, and hopes, is difficult to express. Yet Matar captures the essence of the struggle. Each girl is a chrysalis – in the process of becoming.

Alia stands in front of a metal door and concrete wall painted as red as her tank top and plaid pants. Leaning with her right hip jutting out, she tilts her head to the side. Her dark eyes are as large as those of the Tweety Bird character emblazoned on her shirt. Her expression is soft, slightly quizzical. Background fan-shaped décor encircles her black hair like a flamenco dancer’s peineta. With her dangling earrings, she exudes a free spirit, ready to take wing. Yet on another page, Grace bites her nails and crosses her legs, a slight slouch forward. Sarah stands at the top of a staircase, looking self-possessed in black flats and a summer smock.  

Matar’s award-winning photography is straightforward. Her attention to detail is subtle and so graceful that leafing through the pages is like observing a ballet. The light is soft, the colors vivid, the compositions formal yet intricate.  

Matar solidified her international reputation with her second book, “A Girl and Her Room,” a remarkable study of girls’ self-expression. In “L’Enfant-Femme,” she de-emphasizes the background. We face these girls directly. That is Matar’s genius – the ability to express femaleness without restriction or expectation.
Joanne Ciccarello  is a former Monitor photo editor and an adjunct professor of photojournalism at Emerson College and Northeastern University.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'L’Enfant-Femme' shows us images of girls on the road to womanhood
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today