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.

Since 2005, Matar has collaborated with Samira, a third-generation Palestinian refugee who Matar met at the Bourj El-Barajneh Camp on the outskirts of Beirut. While the earliest images are taken inside the refugee camp, later images record Samira and Matar on ventures outside Bourg El-Barajneh, taking photographs near the sea and in other areas around Beirut. Taken across almost twenty years, Matar’s poetic photographs capture Samira growing up. The moments Matar and Samira share in these photographs are contemplative and tender, capturing states of being and transformation.

Samira at 13, Bourj El-Barajneh Refugee Camp, Beirut was taken eight years after Matar first photographed Samira. This portrait captures Samira’s growth and development, her emergence into adolescence, and the progression of her identity. Viewers are drawn to the image through striking details, such as the colorful interior environment, the interplay of different hues of blue, and the visual rhyme between the bedazzled bow on the subject’s shirt and the textiles beside her. Most significant, perhaps, is the sitter’s penetrating gaze, which suggests self-possession and confidence as she meets the eyes of her viewers. This photograph serves as a bridge between two other images of Samira in the ICA’s collection, creating a formal echo with how Samira herself spans childhood and adulthood.