New photography from Rania Matar connects viewers through observation of isolation

“Rania Matar: On Either Side of the Window, Portraits During COVID-19” showed new works by Lebanese-American photographer Rania Matar (b. 1964) at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Winter Park, Florida in early 2021. These images capture the nuances of specific individuals while at home in quarantine. The series, which began with Matar reaching out to friends to take their portraits while at home, has become a community project.

Responding to her need to connect with others, Matar, now based in Boston, captured more than one hundred people who agreed to pose for her. Matar established a connection with her subjects which included isolated community professionals, small business owners, school students learning from home, and even a pregnant woman – before and after she gave birth – photographing them through a door or window.  

These works encourage the viewer to reflect on how we relate to each other.

“It feels as if the news is always dividing us as ‘them v/s us,’ and now here we are a ‘we:’ all in this together, in the same boat, with life at a standstill and reduced to the confinement of home,” Rania Matar explains. “This virus is such an equalizer, making us all re-evaluate our shared humanity, our fragility, and our priorities.” 

Evocative and insightful, the photographs capture a moment of “connecting across barriers,” that emphasizes the collaboration between photographer and sitter.

“As the weeks went by and the ‘new normal’ settled in, the portraits started transforming with the window almost acting like a stage and people on the inside becoming active participants in the photo session, bringing their ideas and their performances to the interaction we were creating,” she said.

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