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A GIRL AND HER ROOM
Rania Matar

September 14 - December 14, 2012
Artist's Talk, Book Signing and Opening Reception: Friday, September 14, 6:00-8:00pm
Student Seminar: Thursday, September 13, 11:00am (Photography School Lecture Theater, Bldg. 530. Rm. 118)

Rania Matar
Christilla, Rabieh Lebanon 2010
 

“The room will be the first cocoon a girl creates for herself, of herself. It is the place she first attempts self-expression onto an environment. The development of a room shows the progress: pink gives way to glitter, stuffed animals to figurines. Pictures of animals are replaced by pictures of people and with objects no longer selected by a parent. Then to these she adds her own creations and soon the walls are taken over, and the closets, and the bed.

—Susan Minot, from A Girl and Her Room.


ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

"The girls in these photographs willingly opened their doors to an outsider, trusted her, shared their intimacy with her and exposed themselves and their vulnerability. Rania attempted to get to the soul of each girl, to represent each one as truthfully as she could, and, by capturing each individual, to justify their trust in her."
– Susan Minot

Rania Matar has produced an exhibition and a book of unique and subtle power. Focusing on contemporary young women from vastly differing cultures in the United States and Lebanon, her project, A Girl and Her Room, reveals the complex lives of her subjects in the unique setting of the girls’ own rooms. Besides the expected cultural and economic differences and similarities that inevitably are drawn out using such an approach, these portraits of the girls and their bedrooms—reveal a dizzying array of personalities, dreams, hopes, wishes and frustrations in settings that are clearly expressions of the girls’ individual identities. The nuances shown in each room, and in the portrait of each young woman, reveal an acute photographer’s eye for telling detail.

Rania Matar started out this series quite modestly documenting the transition from childhood into adulthood of her own daughters and their friends through the turbulent teenage years. That most elusive of quarries: catching the metamorphosis of free spirited, complex, layered and multi-faceted personalities “mid-flight” each on their own unique journey to self and adulthood became Matar’s quest.


"Rania Matar's series, A Girl and Her Room, is a powerful statement about the persistence of Western ideals of beauty and the proliferation of media images and commercial products directed at young women and their insecurities – "Am I beautiful?" "Am I loved?" "Who are my friends?" "Who are my role models?" Matar's complex social portrait of female adolescence, an unusually intimate collaboration between photographer (herself a mother of teenage girls) and subject, is also a revealing documentary of place – the teenager's bedroom as a sanctuary of self-creation and experimentation.”--Susan L. Stoops, Curator of Contemporary Art, Worcester Art Museum

     

Mimi, Winchester MA 2011
 
ARTIST STATEMENT

As a mother of teenage daughters I watch their 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 they had known and lived in so far. I started photographing them and their girlfriends, and quickly realized that 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 by herself. I originally asked the girls to choose where they wanted to be photographed. After a number of them chose their bedrooms, I realized that was the nexus of a project. The room was a metaphor, an extension of the girl, but also the girl seemed to be part of the room, to fit in, just like everything else in the room.

While I started this work with my daughters and their friends, and with daughters of my friends, I eventually moved away from only photographing girls that I knew well. I enjoyed discovering new girls and building with them a photographer/model relationship with no expectation or holding back from either of us. It allowed me to meet girls from all different backgrounds and different worlds. I always spent time with each girl, so she was 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 and 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 this project became very personal to me. I became fascinated with the similar 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 those young women in the privacy of their world gave me a unique peek into their private lives and their real selves. They sense that I am not judging them and become an active part of the project. The beauty and strength, the aspirations and dreams of these young women from different backgrounds, different worlds are deeply moving. I have tried to be the invisible mirror of those qualities here. Their frankness and generosity in sharing them was a privilege that they have extended to the viewers of this book and exhibition. My deepest hope for this project is that we help them achieve the fullness of their promise.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Rania Matar was born and raised in Lebanon and moved to the U.S. in 1984. Originally trained as an architect at the American University of Beirut and Cornell University, she studied photography at the New England School of Photography and the Maine Photographic Workshops in Mexico. She teaches photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and in refugee camps in Lebanon.

Matar's work focuses mainly on women and women's issues. Earlier projects recorded the lives of women and children in the Middle East, and over the past three years she has completed A Girl and Her Room and started a new project L'Enfant-Femme. Matar has won numerous awards, including the 2011 Legacy Award at the Griffin Museum of Photography, 2011 Massachusetts Cultural Council artist fellowship first place at the New England Photographer Biennial, Women in Photography International, and the Prix de la Photographie Paris. She has accumulated honorable mentions at the 2010 UNICEF Picture of the Year Award, the 2010 Lens Culture Exposure International, the Silver Eye Center for Photography Fellowship, CENTER and the Photo Review. She was selected as one of the Top 100 Distinguished Women Photographers by Women in Photography, and was a finalist for the distinguished Foster Award at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Her images are in the permanent collections of several museums worldwide.

A Girl and Her Room, chosen as a top fifty winner in Critical Mass, is Matar's second book published by Umbrage Editions with essays by Anne Tucker and Susan Minot. Her first book, Ordinary Lives, was published in 2009 by the Quantuck Lane Press.

All images are pigment inkjet prints.

Click HERE for press articles and official website.

“…the girls in her pictures, like so many adolescents today, seem caught in that precarious balance between pensive and insecure, on the one hand, and mature beyond their years, on the other. With an artist's unerring eye and a mother's sixth sense, Matar captures the horror vacui of these private spaces in all their glorious color and intricate detail, somehow making us feel like privileged insiders who have inexplicably been invited past the "Do Not Enter" sign on the door!”--Karen Haas, Curator of Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Rania Matar Rania Matar
Rania Matar
Danielle, Boston MA 2010 Shannon, Boston MA 2010 Anna, Winchester MA 2009

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