About her work
The feminine gaze is a psychoanalytical term that has been in the fashion since the rise to prominence of feminist authors and photographers in the West of the second half of the 20th century; What could this mean for a photographer today in the Middle East, where on close observation, the feminine is constantly being obliterated from public life? Seeking to explore the intimate lives of women, how they see themselves in the shadow of tradition and scrutiny, Rania Matar does not hesitate to utter in images, the ordinary lives of Arab women beyond and above convention. The otherwise documentary photography is opulent in detail and fragile in subject matter and scope, leaving an imaginary to unfold beyond the image itself. It is engaged in social modes of discourse that do not ordinarily contest but simply assert the rights of women to their own bodies, intimacies and privacies. There is by no means an escape from the inexorable burdens of the everyday, only a feminine gaze grounded not in essentialism or the playground of domesticity, but in universals explored through visual culture.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Rania Matar moved to the U.S. in 1984. Originally trained as an architect at the American University of Beirut and at Cornell University, she currently works full time on her personal photography projects and teaches photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Matar’s work has been widely published and exhibited in the U.S. and internationally, most recently at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers From Iran and the Arab World; Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington DC; Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York; East Wing Gallery, Dubai; Galerie Janine Rubeiz, Beirut; Galerie Eulenspiegel, Basel; Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg Germany; Southeast Museum of Photography, Florida; Sharjah Art Museum; National Portrait Gallery in London.
Her work is currently part of the exhibition Aftermath: The Fallout of War – America and The Middle East, curated by Carol McCusker, at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida. She will have her first solo museum exhibition In Her Image: Girls and Women by Rania Matar, at the Amon-Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas in 2017–2018.
Matar has won numerous awards, including the 2011 Legacy Award at the Griffin Museum of Photography, 2011 and 2007 Massachusetts Cultural Council artist fellowships, first place at the New England Photographers Biennial and Women in Photography International. She has garnered honorable mentions at the UNICEF Picture of the Year Award, LensCulture Exposure International, Silver Eye Center for Photography Fellowship, and CENTER, and has been a repeat top 50 winner at Critical Mass. In 2008 she was a finalist for the distinguished Foster Award at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, with an accompanying solo exhibition.
Matar’s images are in the permanent collections of several museums, institutions and private collections worldwide.
She has published three books:
A Girl and Her Room, 2012
Ordinary Lives, 2009