About the book
Lebanon is a country built upon dichotomies. It is a blend of cultures, poised at the intersection between the Western and the Arab world. Born in Beirut and living in the West, photographer Rania Matar is especially attuned to those dichotomies. Here she honors the lives of the women and children of Lebanon in evocative black-and-white photographs. They convey the many facets of life, acknowledging the undeniable presence of war and tragedy, yet celebrating the strength, dignity, and humanity of lives lived amidst the rubble, in refugee camps, or behind the veil. The images are universal, powerful reminders of the tender bond between a mother and child, the cheerful camaraderie of friends, and the resilience of the human spirit. Accompanying these photographs are excerpts from the poetry of celebrated Palestinian-American author Lisa Majaj.
Anthony Shadid died while on assignment in Syria in February 2012. Anthony Shadid was a dear friend, a great reporter and most importantly, just a compassionate and wonderful human being. I am honored to have met him and worked with him. He reported the news from the Middle East the way I would have loved to photograph it, with love and compassion. I will forever cherish having his beautiful essay in my book.
Rest in peace Anthony.
Anthony's website: http://anthonyshadid.com
Reviews / Accolades
"To carry us beyond the hype and headlines of the news of the day, Rania Matar's photography brings us insight into the lives and hearts of her people. The faith and commitment to life that mark the crossroads of modern Lebanon have shaped her soul and inspired her eye. This is art touched by a grace that commands our attention and makes demands upon our understanding and compassion. A clear light such as hers will always illuminate the spirit of humankind and aid us all in our daily challenge of beating back the lurking darkness."
Roy Flukinger, Senior Research Curator
Harry Ransom Center Austin TX
In the world of stark contrasts that is Lebanon today Rania Matar documents the precarious existence of women and girls as they navigate their everyday lives in the aftermath of civil war. Her stunning black-and-white images made in the Palestinian refugee camps stand as witness to the strength and spirit of those seeking normalcy in the ruins of this war torn country. Matar approaches her veiled subjects, both young and old, with a rare intimacy and respect born of her own profound compassion for her native Lebanon and its people.
Karen Haas, The Lane Collection Curator of Photographs
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A sense of duality informs Matar's work. Much of that duality is what one might expect: East and West, rich and poor, war and peace. But what's most striking about Matar's photography is another duality: its balance between the realistic and poetic. She is the documentarian as lyricist, someone who, recording the incongruous, discovers the transcendent.
Mark Feeney, Boston Globe
Rania Matar photographs the ordinary activity of life – women reading a newspaper, young women putting on a veil, children playing with dolls, clothes drying on a line – in a culture often misunderstood in the West, at a time of social and political conflict. Her photographs do not explore the conflicting ideologies. They are studies of the beauty and resiliency of the human spirit made by a gifted photographer who combines the knowledge and love of the land of her birth with the perspective of a person educated in the West. Ordinary Lives is anything but ordinary.
Howard Bossen, PhD, Professor, School of Journalism
Michigan State University
Adjunct Photography Curator, Kresge Art Museum
Rania Matar was born and raised in Lebanon. She was trained and worked as an architect from 1987 to 2000, but in the summer of 2002 she began photographing the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. She has returned each summer to capture the humanity of those who have lost everything, but still maintain their dignity. Her work expanded over time to include the aftermath of war and women and the veil, giving a face to people often forgotten or misunderstood.
Drawn to the most difficult of subject matter, Matar has managed to be present, but not seen, to record small moments in the ordinary lives of people living under extraordinary circumstances. The individuals in her pictures, mostly women and children, are treated with respect and sensitivity.
Matar's pictures are direct, honest, and without pretense. They are not political. They transcend time and place and provide comfort and warmth. In spite of the context of war and displacement, they have a beauty of their own and give us hope for a better world.
Constantine Manos, Photographer
Purchase the book
Ordinary Lives was released October 2009. To purchase your signed copy, click the button at the right or contact Rania Matar at email@example.com.
Ordinary Lives Deluxe Edition is limited to 25 signed and numbered copies, 12 of which only are available for sale. A photograph of Barbie Girl is embossed on the front of the book in a custom deep red full-cloth binding. The Deluxe Edition book is presented in a custom made slip box and includes an original 8"x 12" archival print made and signed by the artist. This print is not available for separate acquisition in this size.
Free shipping within the US.
Nun with Blowing Veil, Chekka Lebanon 2008