Posts Tagged “Photographic Resource Center”

By Audrey Gottlieb, PRC Workshop Assistant

Photograph by Rania Matar

“A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound…” This quote by French poet Charles Baudelaire (1859) was one intricate thread of the conversation opened by Rania Matar in her recent two-day workshop at the PRC. Her eight (nine including myself) students had the good fortune to meet Rania and share a dialogue about photography that came straight from the heart.

Starting with a slide projection of famous and not so famous paintings, Rania introduced the class to subjects who posed for the great masters such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. She pointed out the importance of observing available light pouring in from a window, of learning to see shadow, skin tones, body language and mood. She interspersed photographs made by the late August Sander, Irving Penn and Diane Arbus, as well as those of contemporary photographers Tina Barney, Lydia Panas and David Hilliard. Between the first and second classes, Rania sent us emails listing the other 20 plus photographers’ works she had shown us, as well as a list of poignant quotations about portraits that she had used in her presentation. There had been a lot of material to cover in the vast territory of portraiture photography, so these suggestions to familiarize ourselves with additional images were welcome and useful. Rania provided piles of beautiful photo books to reinforce her teaching us how to see through different creative approaches.

The second class was devoted to looking at and critique-ing the “homework” assignments brought in by the students. Everyone contributed to this exercise. The critiques were gentle, constructive, interactive and expertly guided by Rania. We looked at photographs of children, families, couples, Alaskan fishermen and new Bostonian immigrants. Students talked about how and why they were motivated to follow the subjects they did. The old saying that puts forth “A picture is worth a thousand words” was supported by the fact that story-telling is vital to any personal project. There was a fabulous repartee and camaraderie among the group.

The icing on the cake was at the end of the workshop when Rania showed us her extensive portfolio of beautiful prints from past and current projects.

Rania’s rhetorical yet practical question – “What makes a good portrait?” – was answered time and again in so many ways over the course of our instruction, leaving the class begging for more and for a follow-up class next spring.

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As a young girl, I spent my weekends in my grandfather’s darkroom.  Both a professor of photography and amateur photographer, my grandfather instilled in me the basic knowledge of camera and darkroom processes.  In high school, I competed in a number of state and regional art competitions.  The positive responses I received for my photographs, and the loving support from my family encouraged me to pursue a degree in photography.

In 2012, I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography and art history from Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  My most successful body of work, Noise, explores the urban landscape in response to societies surreal alienation and my search for connection within it.  These images speak at once to the present and the past.  Taken with a small format camera and high-speed film, the enlarged grain enhances the contemporary experience, as I perceive it, distorted and indifferent.

In the summer of 2011, I completed a curatorial internship at the Danforth Museum of Art.  While at the Danforth, I worked primarily on the preparation of the New England Photography Biennial.  That same year, I curated my first student photography exhibition at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  From these experiences I realized my passion lay in arts administration and exhibition studies with a concentration in photography.  I hope my internship at the PRC will provide me with knowledge of each career path and keep me actively involved in the photographic community.

You can view more of my work on my website:

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