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 at Cornell University, she studied photography at the New England School of Photography and the Maine Photographic Workshops. Matar started teaching photography in 2009 and offered summer photography workshops to teenage girls in Lebanon's refugee camps with the assistance of non-governmental organizations. She now teaches Personal Documentary Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and regularly offers talks, class visits and lectures at museums, galleries, schools and colleges in the US and abroad. She is currently a visiting artist and critic at the University of South Florida.
Matar's work focuses on girls and women. She documents her life through the lives of those around her, focusing on the personal and the mundane in an attempt to portray the universal within the personal. Her work has won several awards, has been featured in numerous publications, and exhibited widely in the U.S. and internationally. Her images are in the permanent collections of several museums worldwide. (source)
What do you burn for? I burn for peace in the Middle East, for a normal life for everyone, for education and normalcy for refugee children, for people on all different sides to look at each others as people, for the whole concept of "them" and "us" to disappear.
How do you describe your relationship to your work? Intense, committed, passionate, personal, somewhat autobiographical
Why girls? Because I am one of them and I have two of them.
What have you discovered about transition, impermanence, and/or the evolution of identity though projects such as Women Coming of Age? I am interested in all transitions in my work, in the duality of place and time. Transitions are the time we grow as people when we navigate phases of life, the time we re-evaluate where we are, where we are going. Life is made of those transitions and I have been interested in my work in documenting those transitions through girls and women. L'Enfant-Femme is about the girl growing into teenagehood, about the onset of puberty with all the transformations a girls goes through as her body transforms. A Girl and Her Room is about the older teen as she starts considering the next phase, as she is straddling being a child and an independent adult at once. Women Coming of Age, came out of the realization that I was going through another transition myself as my older daughter left for college, and my role as a mother as I had known it was changing. The work eventually evolved into Unspoken Conversations, a project about Mothers and Daughters, about growing up and growing old.
Do you see your projects as conduits for empathy? I see my projects as personal and universal at once. I am a product of 2 cultures and my 2 identities are not that different, even though if one listen to the news, one would think my Middle Eastern identity cannot possibly be compatible with my American identity, but it very much. I am "them" and I am "us". My aim in my work is to focus on our sameness and our universality - through girls and women.
What are your dreams? To stay passionate about what I do - and never get bored, and I wish for my kids to find that same passion in whatever path they eventually choose to follow.