Black Women in Photography // LaToya Ruby Frazier

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, SEPTEMBER 12, 2015 : LaToya Ruby Frazier photographed in Chicago (John D. & Catherine MacArthur Foundation)

Rust belt communities in states like Pennsylvania are becoming non-existent, yet one photographer chose to encapsulate her experience through visual arts.

LaToya Ruby Frazier is an American artist from Braddock, Pennsylvania. Frazier received her BFA from the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from Syracuse University. She contributes her early artistic endeavors to Grandma Ruby, who helped influence one of her most important projects to date.

Frazier uses her camera just as Gordon Parks, as a weapon. Frazier has been creating work centered on the Rust Belt community of Braddock, her hometown. Her most prominent work, The Notion of Family, shows the effects of Braddock’s steel mills through photographs of her grandmother, mother, and herself. She photographed the healthcare inequality and disparities of African Americans in Braddock, expanding her work on this one project for over 12 years. The Notion of Family, which is also Frazier’s first published book, received the International Center for Photography Infinity Award.

When asked what she would like for people to take away from her work, she said, “What I hope viewers will take away from my work is that we are living in a crucial moment where the socioeconomic shift from industrial labor to the knowledge economy in rustbelt America is leaving an important part of our society behind. Artists and documentarians using their creativity to record and preserve lives from these areas are vital to our society’s heritage and cultural legacy. The answers and solutions to disparities in this nation reside in the populations that are the most affected. We need to acknowledge their presence, listen to their voices and see the world from their perspective.” (Source)

She has received an extensive amount of fellowships and held art residencies around the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. She was the Guna S. Mundheim Fellow for visual arts at the American Academy in Berlin from 2013–2014. (Source) She also received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2015.

Thank you, LaToya Ruby Frazier, for making the world pay attention to your work and creating a dialogue on the economic and health disparities among affected communities by using your preferred choice of weapon — the camera. We salute you.

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