Brain Pickings

A Girl and Her Room: Portraits of Teenage Girls’ Inner Worlds Through Their Bedroom Interiors

by

“I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, a person on the edge between two worlds.”

We’ve already seen the striking spectrum of where children sleep around the world and how a child’s bedroom both reflects and reinforces society’s gender norms. In A Girl and Her Room, photographer Rania Matar takes this direction of curiosity a step further and explores the inner lives of teenage girls through the interiors of their bedrooms. From upperclass mansions to displaced person camps to college dorm rooms, and just about every bedroom variety in between, Matar’s tender yet powerful portraits capture the private spaces of these wildly diverse young souls — punk rockers, peace activist, valedictorians, teen moms, refugees, dog-lovers, cat-lovers.

Matar, herself the mother of a teenage daughter, focuses on the two worlds most familiar and formative to her own teenage years and young adulthood — America and the Middle East. She reflects on the project’s process:

I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, a person on the edge between two worlds, trying to come to terms with this transitional time in her life and adjust to the person she is turning into. Posters of rock stars, political leaders or top models were displayed above a bed covered with stuffed animals; mirrors were an important part of the room, a reflection of the girls’ image to the world; personal objects, photos, clothes everywhere, chaotic jumbles of pink and black make-up and just stuff, seemed to give a sense of security and warmth to the room like a womb within the outside world.

Andrea, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Emma S, Cambridge, MA 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Jess, Jamaica Plain, MA 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Shannon 21, Boston MA, 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Amal, Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Ellice, Jamaica Plain, MA 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Zahra, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Dima, Beirut, Lebanon 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Ai, Boston, MA 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Shifa'a, Jerusalem, West Bank 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Georgina, Roxbury, MA 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Tori, Exeter, NH 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Hollie, Harrisville, RI 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Ariel, Winchester, MA 2009

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Sarah 17, Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp Beirut, 2010

© Rania Matar | raniamatar.com

Both visually stunning and culturally captivating, A Girl and Her Room offers a rare vista into one piece of what it means to grow up as a girl and to metamorphose into a woman, with all her obsessions, convictions, and fascinations, prompting us to find the parallels and universals amidst the differences and contrasts.

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