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LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Notion of Family
Interview by Dawoud Bey. Text by Laura Wexler, Dennis C. Dickerson.
In this, her first book, LaToya Ruby Frazier (born 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. As Frazier says, her mother is "co-author, artist, photographer and subject. Our relationship primarily exists through a process of making images together. I see beauty in all her imperfections and abuse." Frazier's work reinforces the idea of image-making as a transformative act, a means of resetting traditional power dynamics and narratives, both those of her family and those of the community at large. Frazier is a 2014 Guggenheim fellow.
Featured image, "Momme Heads" video still (2008), is reproduced from LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Notion of Family.
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
In her first book, Frazier explores themes of economic inequity, racism and personal politics through three generations of her own family, and documents the tolls that big injustices can have on small families and communities alike.
The New York Times - Lens
Frazier reimagines the tradition of social documentary photography by approaching a community not as a curious or concerned outsider but as a vulnerable insider.
The first photograph after the title page in this book is a tightly cropped shot of a welcome sign for “Historic Braddock” (sponsored jointly by three companies that make air fresheners, odor control products, and do pest control). The second is an expansive aerial view of Braddock’s historic steel mill; the third a portrait of Frazier, topless, her hair messy and her gaze unflinching. In three strokes, the artist maps the terrain of her exploration: the family not only as a personal unit but as a broader community, existing in the wider world and intractably affected by it. Frazier’s challenging and haunting photographs have previously brought this story to museums and galleries, but in this, her first book, she adds writing to create a powerfully stark family portrait. The brilliance of this volume, and Frazier’s work, is in the way it manages to be both documentary and art, deeply intimate and widely important, relentless but so very necessary.
Frazier offers a perspective from the inside, and her images achieve a muted power without being sentimental or sensational.
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 11/10/2014
"As the work has grown over the years, I have tried to edit and frame it in ways so that viewers can imagine themselves a part of it. We all come from families and communities that are affected by local economies and industry. Themes like the body and landscape, familial and communal history, and private and public space are all universal. When viewers look into my photographs and texts I want them to feel deeply touched in a way that transcends race, class and gender, if only for one moment… This book is more than an art book of photographs. It is a history book that lends itself to art history; the history of photography; American history; American studies; women gender and sexuality studies; comparative literature studies; health studies; social and economic studies; labor studies; race relation studies; and more. It is my testimony and fight for social justice." Featured photograph, "Momme (Floral Comforter)" (2008), and excerpt from Latoya Ruby Frazier's published conversation with Dawoud Bey are reproduced from The Notion of Family, Frazier's superb new monograph from Aperture. continue to blog
STEIDL/THE GORDON PARKS FOUNDATION
USD $85.00 | CAN $117
Pub Date: 6/7/2022
Active | Out of stock