She was born and raised in Lebanon and moved to the U.S. in 1984. As a Lebanese-born American woman and mother, Matar’s cultural background, cross-cultural experience, and personal narrative inform her photography. She has dedicated her work to explore issues of personal and collective identity, through photographs of female adolescence and womanhood. She works both in the United States where she lives and the Middle East where she is from, in an effort to focus on notions of identity and individuality all within the context of the underlying universality of these experiences.
Rania Matar’s work has been widely published and exhibited in museums worldwide, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Carnegie Museum of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and more. A mid-career retrospective of her work was recently on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, in a solo exhibition: In Her Image: Photographs by Rania Matar.
She has received several grants and awards including a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, 2017 Mellon Foundation artist-in-residency grant at the Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, 2011 Legacy Award at the Griffin Museum of Photography, 2011 and 2007 Massachusetts Cultural Council artist fellowships. In 2008 she was a finalist for the Foster Award at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, with an accompanying solo exhibition.
Her work is in the permanent collections of several museums, institutions and private collections worldwide.
She has published three books:
- L’Enfant-Femme, 2016, with an introduction by Her Majesty Queen Noor, and essays by Lois Lowry and Kristen Gresh. Selected best photo book of 2016 by PDN Magazine and Foto Infinitum, and Staff Pick by the Christian Science Monitor.
- A Girl and Her Room, 2012, essays by Anne Tucker and Susan Minot. Selected best photo book of 2012 by PDN, Photo-Eye, British Journal of Photography, Feature Shoot and L’Oeil de la Photographie.
- Ordinary Lives, 2009, essay by Anthony Shadid. Selected the best photo book of 2009 by Photo-Eye.
She is currently an associate professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and regularly offers workshops, talks, class visits and lectures at museums, galleries, schools and colleges in the US and abroad.