Award-winning photographer Rania Matar’s new book A Girl and Her Room depicts in beautiful simplicity the lives and identities of teenage girls. Matar was inspired by her own teenage daughter and friends in the midst of the transformation from girl to woman. She discovered that in a group, the girls were self-conscious and highly aware of each other’s presences. It was then when she set off to capture images of each girl alone and in her own personal space.
Most teenagers regard their bedrooms as their only true space and a tangible representation of their identities. In order to enter that space, Matar spent time with her subjects to ensure that they were comfortable with her and the project. It was only after that relationship and trust were built up did she begin the photography session. On her website, she describes each session as a “beautiful and intimate collaboration.”
A prevalent theme of the project is the development of a girl when she’s “on the cusp”, or in between girl and woman. Bedrooms are sanctuaries that are molded by the passing of time and marked by changing interests. Stuffed animals lie next to computers, the new toy of choice while posters of Disney celebrities hang next to or under posters of bands and models – transition is taking place.
And it’s taking place all over the world. The project was soon expanded to include girls from the Middle East – another world that Matar considers part of her. By including subjects from two different cultures, religions and backgrounds, Matar was not hoping to draw comparisons, but rather to emphasize the universality of issues that girls at that age face. True enough, the photos blur the boundaries between countries and cultures in an elegant and understated way.
Perhaps more striking than the images we do see is the story we can only infer from the unique details that touch each viewer in a different way. Matar’s simple photographs are rich with life and possibilities, reminding us that everyone has a story and that so much can be said from the minutest details. The detail-heavy photos make flipping through the 128-page book enjoyable, and provide a different experience every time.
If there’s anything us humans like more than knowing, it’s not knowing and the gray area in between. When viewing the collection, our minds are allowed to wander and we draw parallels, we make up stories, and we connect with the photographs on an unprecedented level.
Check out more of Rania Matar’s photography on her website.
This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Heather Budimulia, a student at the International School of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.