Last updateMon, 23 Oct 2017 3pm


Local photojournalist graphically depicts persecution refugees face

COMM dianamatarPhotojournalist Diana Matar captures refugees in a new light.

The Los Altos native attended the Royal College of Arts in London and has worked with the Associated Press and galleries and museums worldwide. She has exhibited and published in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Matar integrates photography and testimony as she focuses on establishing a personal connection with her subjects.

Her work involves a several-part collaborative process: meeting for an entire day, creating a text from the interview and then reviewing the text with her subjects to ensure accuracy.

“Often text produced from the interviews doesn’t have the same meaning,” Matar said. “I always work with my subjects to see if it’s what they mean in that context.”

Matar’s photojournalism is unique in its aim to paint an intimate image of the individual rather than the overall issue.

“I was trying to get away from those images of black-and-white huddling masses crossing borders. I wanted to focus on someone who’s an individual with (his or her) own story and life and background,” she said. “When you’re a journalist, you’re often working on something that is a large, very important issue, and you may use individuals to illustrate that. But my real purpose was to break it down to each individual and not have it be about the issue.”

Much of Matar’s inspiration stems from her personal and universal interest in the cause of world justice. One project, “Leave to Remain,” comprising 50 photographs of refugees in the United Kingdom, is inspired by the press coverage of asylum-seekers.

“The wording of the rhetoric in the press was very problematic to me. ... I was reminded of how we use language to demonize people,” she said. “What I didn’t see were the voices of the people who were being talked about.”

Her powerful, large-scale portraits toured the House of Parliament and 10 museums in the UK.

Matar’s most personal project, a three-part series – “Disappearance,” “Evidence” and “Witness” – prompted by her father-in-law’s disappearance in Libya, portrays that nation’s day-to-day political atrocities. The second section, “Evidence, reflects how specific archaeological sites can become evidence of the missing people for whom there are no records or evidence. In “Evidence,” buildings become metaphors for a Libyan reign of terror and state-sponsored depravity. “Witness,” the third section, features photographs of trees around the world that mark the sites of the assassinations of Libyan dissidents.

“That project came about by historical events unfolding in Libya, but also by very personal events in my husband’s family and how that affected us. It was a project very close to home and very difficult to work on,” Matar said.

The project, which took five years to complete, was on display at London’s Saatchi Gallery and won acclaim from Deutsche Bank and Critical Mass.

“Photography is the way I walk through the world,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love.”

For more information, visit dianamatar.com.

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