Brushing out our daughter’s brown
silken hair before the mirror
I see the grey gleaming on my head,
the silver-haired servant behind her.
Why is it
just as we begin to go
they begin to arrive, the fold in my neck
clarifying as the fine bones of her
hips sharpen? As my skin shows
its dry pitting, she opens like a moist
precise flower on the tip of a cactus;
as my last chances to bear a child
are falling through my body, the duds among them,
her full purse of eggs, round and
firm as hard-boiled yolks, is about
to snap its clasp. I brush her tangled
fragrant hair at bedtime. It’s an old
story—the oldest we have on our planet—
the story of replacement.

—Sharon Olds, “35/10”


While I had been photographing teenage girls in “A Girl and Her Room,” pre-pubescent girls in “L’Enfant-Femme,” and adult women in “Women Coming of Age,” I found myself gradually including both mother and daughter in the same photograph.

My focus shifted from the singular individual to the collective, combining and cumulative. Casual glances, hand gestures, subtle shifts in body language, physical closeness (or lack thereof), shared embarrassments, vulnerability, and admissions of uncertainties became the focus of the photographs.

The glances and the emotions of the individual are combined within a single frame, conveying simultaneously the personal and the universality of the complex mother and daughter relationship: the bond, the tension and the admissions of uncertainties that are all a part of growing up and growing old.

The work is a collaborative dialogue that explores the complexity of female maker to female subject, of womanhood on each side of the camera and of spoken and unspoken conversation. It is a work in progress.

—Rania Matar