Ordinary Lives

Ordinary Lives

I do not intend these images to be political or to represent Lebanon as a country. They focus on portraying the universality of being human, regardless of one's circumstance: what it means to be a mother, a father, a child or a young woman  of any background or religion. My intent is to depict lives that are ordinary in a country that is anything but.

Behind their black veils, girls have friends, bond and giggle; mothers nurse and nurture their children in refugee camps; a nun blissfully stares at the sea from the balcony of her convent; a child brings a smile to a mother's face even while destruction surrounds them.

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The media typically covers the Middle East in a sensational manner--showing terrorism, bombings and kidnappings--but the majority of people are just ordinary citizens going about their lives.

This selection of black-and-white images is drawn from three interrelated bodies of work: The Aftermath of War, a photographic essay about life in Lebanon following the numerous wars the country has experienced; The Veil: Modesty, Fashion, Devotion or Statement, about the relatively recent spread of the veil among Muslim women in Lebanon; and The Forgotten People, which portrays life in the decaying Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon.

The first image, entitled Rocket Hole, is emblematic of the series: As you look through the rocket hole, a symbol of war and destruction, you can see an intact building, standing still in the midst of chaos. The people I photograph are doing just that. They are still standing in spite of the chaos that surrounds them.

Throughout my work in Lebanon, be it after the war, in the refugee camps, in the suburbs of Beirut, in the convents hidden deep in the mountains, or in southern Lebanon, I was welcomed into people's homes and lives, and I was humbled by their resiliency and hospitality. Religion and political affiliations did not matter.

As a result, my photographs mainly show the people who did not lose their humanity and dignity despite what they have gone through and are still enduring. I try to portray them as the beautiful individuals they are instead of as members of some religious or political group. In the hope of emphasizing the essence of their humanity, I prefer to focus on their spirit and determination to continue with the simple and mundane task of daily living.

Editor's Note


Artist's Statement



See Rania Matar's story Muslim Women Engage in Politics, which was featured in the Women, Power and Politics exhibition.

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