In her highly anticipated first book The Notion of Family (Aperture Foundation 2014) photographer and media artist LaToya Ruby Frazier has compellingly set her story of three generations—her Grandma Ruby, her mother, and herself—against larger questions of civic belonging and responsibility. The work documents her own struggles and interactions with family and the expectations of community, and includes the documentation of 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.
Through photography, performance, and video Frazier uses the conventions of social documentary to probe and upend traditional narratives of urban growth and the triumph of industry. Exposing the underbelly of corporate practices—rapid deindustrialization and outsourcing, environmental negligence, and inner-city gentrification—Frazier’s work examines the crises of postindustrial communities and class divisions wrought by capital.
Her work is informed by late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century modes of representation in documentary practice. Through a collaborative effort with her family and community residents Frazier’s works emphasize the importance of cultural memory and sheds light on invisible realities.
A recipient of a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship Frazier is best known for her 2013 solo exhibition A Haunted Capital at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She is a recently appointed assistant professor of photography at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has previously held academic and curatorial positions at Yale University School of Art, Rutgers University, and Syracuse University.