LATOYA RUBY FRAZIER: Photographer / Artist / Filmmaker

Notion of Family

The collaboration between my family and myself blurs the line between self-portraiture and social documentary. I use photography and video to employ themes regarding, the body and landscape, familial and communal history, private and public space and human complexity.

My work has a deep concern for the mother/ daughter relationship. Relentlessly documenting encounters with Grandma Ruby (b.1925-2009), Mom (b.1959) and myself (b.1982) enables me to break unspoken intergenerational cycles. We are wrestling with internalized life experiences, perceptions of our-selves and familial personas developed by sociopolitical baggage.

All of my photographs are created in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a historical steel mill town from America’s Industrial period. It is home of Andrew Carnegie’s first Steel Mill, The Edgar Thomson Works, (which still functions today). Grandma Ruby, Mom and myself grew up in significantly different social and economic climates in Braddock. Grandma Ruby witnessed Braddock’s prosperous days of Department stores, theaters and restaurants. Mom witnessed the steel mills close and white flight to suburban developments. I witnessed the crack epidemic and the demise of my family and community. Between our three generations we not only witnessed, we experienced and internalized the end of industrialization and rise of deindustrialization.

Lately I have created photographs that address environmental injustice and issues with health care and class. Grandma Ruby died from pancreatic cancer and diabetes, Mom currently suffers from an unknown neurological disorder and cancer and I was diagnosed with lupus ten years ago.

The underpinning element in my photographs is the collaborative process between my mother and myself. Mom is co-author, artist and subject. She turns the camera on me to document us. I am also the subject and content of the work. This work is not solely social documentary. These are psychological portraits of the identity of the body and how surrounding outside space shapes and forms it physically. I view Grandma Ruby, Mom and myself as one entity. There is an intergenerational transference of our identities existing in the vortex of Braddock Pennsylvania.

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