Rania Matar depicts human vulnerability during periods of transition in the lives of women and children. Her photography explores identity and how the self is influenced by context and culture. Matar was born in Lebanon in 1964 but moved to the USA in 1984. On the basis of her dual background, the Palestinian background she grew up with and the American one she acquired, Matar describes who we are in our time.
Landskrona Foto Festival shows works from four of Matar’s series. A Girl and Her Room, L’Enfant-Femme, Becoming, and Invisible Children.
A Girl and Her Room from 2010. Matar started to photograph her prepubertal daughters and their friends who were in-between childhood and the adult world. They were allowed to choose where they wanted to be photographed, and often chose the girl’s room. The circle was expanded and Matar also photographed girls she had not known before. The work continued in the Middle East. Matar saw differences between Arab and American girls, but above all similarities.
L’Enfant Femme, an ongoing project that started in 2011. Sometimes Matar returns to the same individuals when they have become older. Here she portrays the girl-woman; a sensitive period when the girl is increasingly pushed aside by the adult woman that she will become. Matar’s ambition was to get away from the quick picture in social media; she worked in analog form with a medium-format camera and sought to disturb the youngsters’ typical photo look. She asked them to be serious but otherwise they were allowed to choose their pose by themselves.
Invisible Children was started in 2014. The war in Syria dominates the news, but the children who are affected are relatively invisible. In Lebanon there are over a million Syrian refugees, living in an intermediate space that risks becoming permanent. Matar saw children, unseen by most people, on the streets of Beirut. They appeared to have the same history; they had come to Lebanon with their mothers, their fathers were dead or fighting in Syria. The children did not go to school. Instead they shone shoes, sold various small items, or begged for money, in order to provide for their families. Matar wanted to make them visible, show who they were and photograph them as individuals. The series also includes portraits of girls growing up as the third generation in Palestinian refugee camps.
Rania Matar holds workshops in photography for teenage girls in Lebanon’s refugee camps. She lives in the USA and teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This year Matar was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship.