Rania Matar

1964 | Beirut, Lebanon
Rania Matar — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Rania Matar, Photo Helena Goessens

Palestinian-Lebanese-American photographer.

Rania Matar studied at the American University of Beirut before moving to the United States in 1984, during the Lebanese Civil War. There she studied at Cornell University before attending the New England School of Photography and the Maine Photographic Workshop.
Primarily a portrait photographer, R. Matar’s work focuses on issues of womanhood, adolescence, and Arab and American identities. Photographing women in the United States and her native Middle East, the artist is able to explore cultural specificity and difference as well as finding commonalities through her investigation of gender performance, sexuality, growth and ageing. Mirrors often feature prominently in her work as a way of fragmenting the gaze and highlighting notions of identity and introspection. The photographer rarely poses the photos, allowing the subjects to express themselves and have some agency over how they are presented.

R. Matar gained acclaim with Ordinary Lives (2009), depicting quotidian life in Lebanon following the series of conflicts the country endured. The images contrast the resilience of the Lebanese people with the material damage of war. Invisible Children (2014-2016) expands upon this theme, while zooming in on Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, many of whom were begging in the streets. Both series highlight the humanity of the subjects, allowing room for them to display agency, humour and humanity, despite the difficult circumstances and uncertainty that surrounds them.
Subsequent bodies of work have focused on motherhood, adolescence and femininity. In L’Enfant-Femme [The child-woman, 2011-2015], R. Matar photographed pre-teen girls in both the United States and the Middle East, interrogating gender performance and sexuality across cultures. In the introduction to the book published of the work, Queen Noor of Jordan described it as “[exposing] the boundaries of American and Arab cultures in order to reconcile them”. In A Girl and Her Room (2012), the artist depicts teenagers in their private spaces.
The age of the subjects R. Matar chooses to photograph at a particular moment in time often correlate to the ages of her own children, creating a direct bridge from the personal to the universal. In Women Coming of Age (2013-), she examines another moment of transition by depicting middle-aged women.

R. Matar has shown worldwide including at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany, and galleries in Beirut, Warsaw, London and more. In 2018 she received the Guggenheim Fellowship for photography, and is an associate professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.

Shachar May

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Linked article
Linked theme
Discover other artists
Biography published in the framework of the program
TEAM : Teaching, E-learning, Agency, Mentoring

of Women Artists
& Exhibitions

Facebook - AWARE Twitter - AWARE Instagram - AWARE
Villa Vassilieff - 21, avenue du Maine 75015 Paris (France) — info[at]aware-art[.]org — +33 (0)1 55 26 90 29