About the book
Award-winning photographer Rania Matar's A Girl and Her Room reveals the lives of girls from two disparate worlds – The U.S. and Lebanon. Set in the girls' bedrooms – which range from spartan cleanliness to chaotic disarray – these portraits offer an insider's perspective of not just who these young women are, but the physical spaces that prove to be extensions of their identities.
A Girl and Her Room is RANIA MATAR's second book. Her first book, Ordinary Lives, was published in 2009.
SUSAN MINOT's first novel, Monkeys, was published in a dozen countries and received the Prix Femina Étranger in France. She is the author of Rapture, Lust & Other Stories, Folly, Evening, and Poems 4 A.M., and wrote the screenplay for Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty.
ANNE TUCKER is the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, a department she founded in 1976, and has authored a number of books.
Published by UMBRAGE EDITIONS
Essays by SUSAN MINOT and ANNE TUCKER
Reviews / Accolades
Both visually stunning and culturally captivating, A Girl and Her Room offers a rare vista into one piece of what it means to grow up as a girl and to metamorphose into a woman, with all her obsessions, convictions, and fascinations, prompting us to find the parallels and universals amidst the differences and contrasts.
Maria Popova, Editor of Brain Pickings; writer for Wired UK and The Atlantic
"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. Rooms are filled with the detritus of daily life (from make-up and shoes, to stuffed animals and celebrity posters) which function as constant, albeit often conflicting, identity markers. For all their apparent self-absorption and vulnerability, Matar's subjects exhibit a desire to be seen and willfully engage in a presentation of self before Matar and her camera."
Susan L. Stoops, Curator of Contemporary Art
Worcester Art Museum
Rania Matar's portraits of girls in their rooms are collaborations--in the truest sense of the word--involving the artist and her teenage subjects, many of whom she did not know before she undertook this project. Allowed to pose themselves and surrounded by their most intimate possessions, 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
"The girls are there, alone with the photographer, exposing themselves to our eyes. They not only expose their face, their skin, their tattoos, they expose their universes. Every picture reveals a girl in her sanctuary: We see a lot, we know nothing; every Girl and her Room remains a mystery, a vulnerable object of intrigue."
Gregory Buchakjian, Art Historian
An added strength of Matar's project is her blend of pictures from two cultures: US and Middle East, establishing revelations in both the similarities and the divergences in each culture's bedrooms. Matar's understanding of the rich possibilities in this dichotomy grew slowly. Before conceiving "a girl and her room" as a series, Matar started photographing her daughters and their friends, working with relationships that existed before she took their portraits. This placed her in a long and fertile tradition of women photographers who have photographed their children, ranging from Julia Margaret Cameron in nineteenth-century England to the California photographer Imogen Cunningham in the twenties to the contemporary photographer Sally Mann, just to name a few. These women's pictures were radically different in style and content, but basically, they were young mothers using the material most at hand. Matar's project took shape and moved away from this tradition when she developed the duality of photographing the girls and their rooms, giving each equal weight. Soon, she began to seek out girls of increasingly different backgrounds, first in the US and then in the Middle East, and challenged herself to develop with strangers the same collaborative spirit first achieved with her daughters and their friends.
However cautious one should be in speculating about the lives of strangers, it is human to do so, and it is just as human for her potential subjects to want to avoid such conjectures. But something in the way that Matar approached her subjects allayed their fears, and those of their parents. Maybe it was that she always refers to them as young women, not girls, and assumed that their selves as expressed in their rooms were important and worthy of serious consideration. Rather than portray the stereo-typed "crazy teens with raging hormones," she approached each person with respect and kindness, looking for individuality and accepting with grace the forms it took.
Anne Tucker, Curator of Photography
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
A Girl and Her Room was featured in the April 2012 "Girl" issue of Brooklyn's Working Class Magazine. The issue focuses on what it means to be a girl, the modern girl's life, and features the lives and work of some amazing Brooklyn-based girls. Below is an excerpt of the review by Ryan Michael Commins. Read the full article here.
"There are no photographs in which the girl doesn't seem to perfectly fit in the room. They must work together because these are two symbiotic beings living in coexistence. As the girl evolves, so goes the room. A Girl and Her Room is a candid vivisection of that process in book form."
Ryan Michael Commins
Purchase the book
A Girl and Her Room was released May 2012. The book is currently out of print, out of circulation and no longer available commercially. To purchase your signed copy directly from Rania Matar, click the button at the right or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The special edition of A Girl and Her Room includes your choice of an original 8"x 12" archival print, made and signed by the artist. Each print is limited to an edition of 50. Choose one print from the three options below.
Shannon 21, Boston MA
Ellice 21, Jamaica Plain MA
Rim 19, Doha Lebanon
May 2012 • ISBN 978-1-884167-76-8 • UMBRAGE EDITIONS • Hardcover • 9 x 12 inches • 140 pages • color photographs