Project Statement

As a Lebanese-born American woman and mother, my cross-cultural experiences inform my art. I have dedicated my work to exploring issues of personal and collective identity through photographs of female adolescence and womanhood – both in the United States where I live and the Middle East where I am from.

I am focusing in this project on young women in their twenties – the ages of my own daughters. They are leaving the cocoon of home and entering adulthood. In earlier projects, I photographed young women in relationship to the curated and controlled environment of their bedrooms. Here, I am photographing them in the larger environment they find themselves in after leaving home, the global and complicated backdrop that now constitutes their lives in transition.

I portray the raw beauty of their age, their individuality, physicality, texture, and mystery. I create a personal narrative with them, and photograph them the way I, a woman and a mother, see them: beautiful, alive. The process is collaborative and evolves organically as the women become active participants in the image-making process, presiding over the environment, and making it their own.

They climb on rocks and trees, jump fully dressed in dirty water and waterfalls, crawl under thorns, trespass into abandoned buildings, embracing life and getting dirty, takings risks and having fun. Given the space to express themselves, they are willing to experiment and go places neither of us thought possible just moments earlier. As a result I find myself focusing on their strength and their majestic presence.

My work addresses the states of ‘Becoming’ – the fraught beauty and the vulnerability of growing up – in the context of the visceral relationships to our physical environment and universal humanity, but it is also about collaboration, experimentation, performance, empowerment, and about pushing the limits of creativity and self-expression ‐ both for the young women and for myself.

By collaborating with women in the United States and the Middle East, I focus on our essence, our physicality and the commonalities that make us human, ultimately highlighting how female subjectivity develops in parallel forms across cultural lines.

SHE, the book

SHE is Rania Matar’s fourth book.
Released October 2021
Published by RADIUS BOOKS
Texts by Mark Alice Durant and Orin Zahra

More About the Book