Susan 15 #1, Shatila Refugee Camp Beirut, 2010
Rania Matar is a Lebanese-born photographer who currently lives and and teaches in Massachusetts. In a recent interview she said, "I was 11 when the war started and like most children was resilient enough to learn to live with it. It just became a fact of life and then things would be peaceful and life would be normal again and we all forgot about the war till it struck again." This take on what constitutes "normal" has led Matar to use photography to explore the everyday lives of women and children as a window into the world at large. Her photography projects in the Middle East has covered refugee camps, Christian Arabs, and a far more diverse representation of women and the veil than Western mainstream media ever feels like portraying. In her new project, "A Girl and Her Room," she is re-celebrating the everyday in a new way by taking portraits of young women in their bedroom, from Massachusetts to the Middle East.
Inspired by her own teenage daughter, Matar set out to document the lives of teenage women. After observing how girls act in a group setting, Matar decided to focus on young women in their bedroom, "an area that is theirs, that they can fully control, decorate, trash and be themselves in – within an outside world that is often intimidating." From her artist's statement:
I was fascinated to discover a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she just barely left behind. A person on the edge between two worlds, trying to come to terms with this transitional time in her life and adjust to the person she is becoming. Posters of rock stars, political leaders or top models were often displayed above a bed still covered with stuffed animals; mirrors were always an important part of the room, a reflection of the girls' image to the outside world.
Being with those young women in the privacy of their world gave me a unique peek into their private lives and their real selves. I thank them all for their trust and their willingness to share their private space and their private self with me.
Formally trained as an architect, Matar knows the significance of how people occupy and use the space they're in. These glimpses into girls' bedrooms reveal themes of identity (mirrors and photographs are recurring objects) and transition (hints of both playfulness and sexuality run throughout). Browsing through them on her website, it's often less jarring than you might think to go from a suburban Boston bedroom to one in a Beirut refugee camp.
Emma 17, Brookline MA, 2008
Hiba, Bourj El Barajneh Refugee Camp Beirut, 2010
Lizzie 17, Cornwall NY, 2010
All images are from RaniaMatar.com
You can see more of her work online. Her book Ordinary Lives is out from Quantuck Lane Press, and an exhibition by the same name might be coming to a town near you!