Photographer Rania Matar was fascinated as her 15-year-old daughter transformed into a complete stranger from the little girl she had raised. She watched as her daughter’s friends performed in front of each other, hiding behind smiles. She decided to photograph each girl alone in her bedroom, what she considers an “extension of the girl.”
She started with friends of her daughters and daughters of her friends. Eventually she stopped girls on the street to see whether they’d be willing to be a part of this book project, set to publish this May.
“Photographing girls I didn’t know was very liberating for me,” Matar said, “I could relate to these girls.”
Matar’s images come from the United States and the Middle East, including refugee camps. She sees a similarity between the girls and a contrast in their rooms.
“I found that regardless of who they were, they were all coming to terms with who they are. The presence of (becoming) a woman was there,” she said. She explains the differences in their rooms as the financial positions of their parents. But a motif of independence could be seen woven through their teenage lives.
“They’re at an age where a lot of things could be confusing. They feel they own this piece of real estate,” she said.
One girl told Matar that she keeps her room clean because that’s how she wishes her life could be, Matar said.
Most people who photograph teenage girls are photographing issues, Matar said. Her approach — going in with a nonjudgmental, motherly view — allows the girls to express themselves. The project made Matar more understanding and tolerant. It even made her willing to give her own daughters some space. She hopes others can view it in a similar way.
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN