Rania Matar, Orly and Ruth, 2020, from the series Across the Window: Portraits during COVID-19 (2020–ongoing). Archival pigment print on baryta paper, 28 4/5 × 36 inches (73.2 × 91.4 cm). Acquired through the generosity of Jean-François and Nathalie Ducrest. Courtesy the artist and Robert Klein Gallery. © Rania Matar
Rania Matar grapples with issues of personal and collective identity in her work. Born in Lebanon, Matar has lived in the United States since 1984. Drawing on her cultural background, cross-cultural experiences, and personal narrative, she has produced photographic series focused on womanhood, adolescence, and periods of individual evolution.
Orly and Ruth comes from the series Across Windows: Portraits during COVID-19, photographic portraits Matar began taking in April 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 stay-at-home advisories. Matar initiated the project with a post on Instagram, calling for interested people to sit for photographs taken through a ground floor window in their homes: “Physical distancing but not social distancing.” Hundreds of people responded, and the photographs (numbering 135 images at the time of this writing) offer an incredible account of human affection and interaction during lockdown. Orly and Ruth captures a moment of intimacy as Orly embraces her sister Ruth in their Brookline home. The reflective surface of the window glass visually merges inside and outside spaces—an effect of shooting through glass that Matar creatively uses in many photographs in the series. “Despite the fact that we only communicated across a physical barrier,” shares Matar, “we really and truly made a connection.” Inspired by the artist’s own changed experiences of time, family, and human interaction, Across Windows: Portraits during COVID-19 documents this unparalleled time and underlines the vitality of human connection.