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>> Rania Matar
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Rania Matar
A Girl and Her Room

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Rania Matar, Bisan 16, Bethlehem West Bank, Archival Pigment Print, 2009.
“I live in a Palestinian refugee camp. Life is OK except that the wall blocks our lives. I am Muslim. I don't want to get veiled. My mom would like me to. She worries people will talk. For me my relationship with God is my own.” - Bisan

Artist Statement
This project is about teenage girls and young women at a transitional time of their lives, alone in the privacy of their own personal space and surrounding: their bedroom, a womb within the outside world.

As a mother of a teenage daughter I watch her passage from girlhood into adulthood, fascinated with the transformation taking place, the adult personality shaping up and a self-consciousness now replacing the carefree world she had known and lived in so far. I started photographing her and her girlfriends, quickly realizing they were very aware of each other’s presence, and that their being in a group affected very much whom they were portraying to the world. From there, emerged the idea of photographing each girl alone in her personal space.

I spend time with each girl, so she is comfortable with me and eventually the photography session became a beautiful and intimate collaboration. I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, 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 turning into.  Posters of rock stars, political leaders or top models were displayed above a bed covered with stuffed animals; mirrors were an important part of the room, a reflection of the girls’ image to the world; personal objects, photos, clothes everywhere, chaotic jumbles of pink, black, make-up, and just stuff seemed to give a sense of security and warmth to the room like a womb within the outside world.

I initially started this work focusing on teenage girls in the United States and eventually expanded the project to include girls from the two worlds I am most familiar with, the two worlds I experienced myself as a teen and a young twenty year old: the United States and the Middle East. This is how the project became very personal to me. I became fascinated with the similarities of issues girls at that age face, regardless of culture, religion, and background, as they learn to deal with all the pressures that arise as they become consciously aware of the surrounding world, wherever this may be.

Being with young women in the privacy of their world gave me a unique peak into their private lives and their real selves. They sense that I am not judging them and become an active part of the project. I just follow their leads. I thank every one of them for their trust and precious collaboration.

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Artist Bio
Rania Matar, born and raised in Lebanon moved to the United States in 1984. Originally trained as an architect at the American University of Beirut and Cornell University, she eventually studied photography at New England School of Photography and with Magnum photographer Constantine Manos in Mexico through a course organized by Maine Photographic Workshops. She currently works full-time as a photographer and professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art + Design; and in the summers, she teaches photography to teenage girls in refugee camps in Lebanon with the assistance of non-governmental organizations. Her work has been published and exhibited widely in the U.S. and internationally. Matar’s work has won many awards including most recently the 2011 Legacy Award at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the artist fellowship grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and first prize at the Danforth Museum of Arts’ juried exhibit Off the Wall. Matar’s work has also won first prize in New England Photographers Biennial, first prize in Women in Photography International, second prize at the Prix de la Photographie Paris, honorable mentions at the 2010 UNICEF Picture of the Year Award, 2010 Lens Culture Exposure International, 2010 CENTER Project Competition and Curator’s Choice Awards, the Silver Eye Center for Photography Fellowship, the Photo Review, and My Art Space. A Girl and Her Room was recently selected as a top 50 winner in Critical Mass. In 2008, Matar was selected one of Top 100 Distinguished Women Photographers by Women in Photography and was a finalist for the prestigious Foster award at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston with an accompanying solo exhibit in the museum in 2009. Her images are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Contemporary Photography Collection of the Worcester Museum of Art; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; the De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park; the Danforth Museum of Art; the Kresge Art Museum; the Southeast Museum of Photography; and are part of numerous private collections. Her first book, Ordinary Lives, was released in 2009, published by the Quantuck Lane Press and distributed by WW Norton. Her second book, A Girl and Her Room, is due in the spring of 2012 published by Umbrage Editions.







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