Ordinary Lives


Text by Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist, Anthony Shadid
Publisher Quantuck Lane Press
Distribution by W.W. Norton

Released September 2009
Clothbound | 12 x 8 inches | 136 pages | 108 tri-tone photographs

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.

The Special Edition includes a signed archival print. Scroll down for print options.


SKU N/A Category

Special Edition

Book + Signed Archival Print

The special edition of Ordinary Lives includes your choice of an original 8″x 10″ archival print, signed by the artist.
Select one print from the three options below.

Reviews & Accolades for Ordinary Lives

“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, Magnum Photos

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: Anthony Shadid

Additional information
Weight 58 oz
Dimensions 12.5 × 8.5 × 1 in

Ordinary Lives, Special Edition with 'Barbie Girl', Special Edition with 'Juggling', Special Edition with 'Boy in the Mirror'

Other Books by Rania Matar


Released February 2016
SHE by Rania Matar


Released October 2021

For Exhibitions, Licensing and Creative Collaborations, contact Rania directly: 617-538-2256 | rania@raniamatar.com

The images on this website are copyright © Rania Matar and may not be used, reproduced, copied, or printed, without written permission from the photographer. Any unauthorized use is a violation of copyright law and will be prosecuted and fined.

Site created by ktp design.