A Girl and Her Room

A Girl and Her Room

Project Statement

As a mother of teenage daughters, I watch their passage from girlhood into adulthood, fascinated with the transformation taking place. The adult personality is taking shape and a gradual self-consciousness replacing the carefree world they had known and lived in so far. I started photographing them and their girlfriends. I quickly realized how aware they were of each other’s presence, and how much the group affected the identity they were portraying. From this recognition, the idea of photographing each girl alone emerged.

I originally let the young women choose where they wanted to be photographed. After a couple of them chose their bedroom, I realized that was the nexus of a project. The room was a metaphor, an extension of the girl, but also the girl seemed to be part of the room, to fit in, just like everything else in the material and emotional space.

While I started this work with my daughters, their friends, and daughters of my friends, I eventually moved away from  photographing girls that I knew. I enjoyed discovering new girls and building a photographer / model relationship, with no expectation or holding back from either of us. I spent time with each girl so she was comfortable with me, and eventually the photography session became a beautiful and intimate collaboration. I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she’d barely outgrown.

The girls were on the edge between two worlds, trying to come to terms with this transitional time in her life and adjust to the person she was turning into. Posters of rock stars, political leaders, or top models were displayed above a bed covered with stuffed animals. Mirrors were an important part of the room, a reflection of the girls’ image to the world. Personal objects, photos, clothes, chaotic jumbles of pink and black make-up, and just stuff. These things seemed to give a sense of security and warmth to the room, like a womb within the world.

I initially started this work focusing on teenage girls in the US and eventually expanded the project to include girls from the two worlds I am most familiar with. The two worlds I experienced myself as a young woman – the United States and the Middle East – made this project personal to me. I became fascinated with the similar issues girls at that age face, regardless of culture, religion, and background. As they learn to deal with all the pressures that arise, they become conscious and aware of the surrounding world, wherever this may be.

Being with these young women in the privacy of their world gave me a unique peek into their private lives and their inner selves. They sensed that I was not judging them and became an active part of the project. Their frankness and generosity in sharing access was a privilege that they have extended to me, but also to all the viewers of this work.

A Girl and Her Room, the book

A Girl and Her Room is Rania Matar’s second book.
Released May 2012
Published by Umbrage Editions
Essays by Susan Minot and Anne Tucker

More About the Book