Portraits Through Windows | Before and After Covid | Robert Klein Gallery Viewing Room

BOSTON—Two acclaimed photographers, Rania Matar and Arne Svenson, have documented their subjects—friends, neighbors, and strangers—by peering through windows from varying perspectives. The photographs can be seen in a viewing room exhibition entitled Clear Boundaries at Robert Klein Gallery through September 7, 2020.

While standing at her kitchen sink this March during quarantine, Rania Matar noticed a neighbor reclining in her window seat, which led her to think about “connecting across barriers.” Intrigued by how the pandemic was halting human contact, she began her ongoing socially-distanced series On Either Side of the Window by asking for participants on social media.

As Matar notes: “It humbled me how many people were willing to be part of this, but also how important the human interaction we often took for granted was – for both of us on either side of the window and of the camera.  Despite the fact that we only communicated across a physical barrier, we really and truly made a connection. The sense of being inside or outside was blurred. I am outside and looking in, but seeing the outside reflected onto the person in front of me. Depending on where I stood, we could even overlap, connecting us on many levels metaphorically and personally despite the physical barrier between us.”

Arne Svenson’s work also looks through windows and often references images from art history. Although they were produced pre-Covid, Svenson’s two series, The Neighbors and Invisible, from 2021 and 2019, take on a new relevance as more time is being spent at home. His subjects are not aware of the photographer’s lens, and their identities are sheltered from view.

As he notes about his series Invisible, “I’ll shoot through a window, a scrim, a curtain of smoke, alerting you to a presence but never revealing the person whom, without intervention, will always remain as pictured—invisible. For The Neighbors, he says, “The grid structure of the windows frames the quotidian activities of the neighbors, forming images which are puzzling, endearing, theatrical and often seem to mimic art history, from Delacroix to Vermeer.”

Together the images from Rania Matar and Arne Svenson in Clear Boundaries reveal a quiet beauty behind the window. Whether the subject is communicating wordlessly to the photographer or going about the daily mundane activities of life, the images provide a provocative view of life enclosed within the boundaries of home.

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