LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Notion of Family
In this, her first book, LaToya Ruby Frazier (b. 1982) offers an incisive exploration of the legacy of racism and economic decline in America's small towns, as embodied by Braddock, Pennsylvania, Frazier's hometown. The work also considers the impact of that decline on the community and on her family, creating a statement both personal and truly political—an intervention in the histories and narratives of the region that are dominated by stories of Andrew Carnegie and Pittsburgh's industrial past, but largely ignore those of black families and the working classes. Frazier has set her story of three generations—her Grandma Ruby, her mother and herself—against larger questions of civic belonging and responsibility.
The work also documents the demise of Braddock's only hospital, reinforcing the idea that the history of a place is frequently written on the body as well as the landscape. With The Notion of Family, Frazier knowingly acknowledges and expands upon the traditions of classic black-and-white documentary photography, enlisting the participation of her family, and her mother in particular. In the creation of these collaborative works, Frazier reinforces the idea of art and image-making as a transformative act, a means of resetting traditional power dynamics and narratives—both those of her family and of the community at large. Frazier is a 2014 Guggenheim fellow.
Interview with the artist by Dawoud Bey. Texts by Laura Wexler and Denis C. Dickerson.
Published by Aperture, 2014, foil-stamped, debossed, clothbound hardcover, 156 pages, 10.75 x 9.5 inches.