LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph

About LaToya Ruby Frazier


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 raise 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.

LaToya Ruby Frazier was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned a BFA in applied media arts at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2004, and an MFA in art photography from Syracuse University in 2007. She has been an artist in residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in 2010, Art Omi in 2009, Center for Photography at Woodstock in 2008 and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2007. She is currently an artist and resident at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program.

Frazier’s work has been written about in The New York Times, The New Yorker, ArtForum, Artnet, Art Papers, Art Info, Art in America,The Brooklyn Rail, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Village Voice. Her work has been shown in museums and galleries in New York City including P.S.1 MOMA Greater New York, the New Museum of Contemporary Art Younger Than Jesus, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Higher Pictures Gallery and internationally in Copenhagen Denmark. Frazier’s first solo museum exhibition, Mother May I, was at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit May 2010.

Frazier has worked as a photo editor for Newsweek. She is a member of Society for Photographic Education and Enfoco. She has been commissioned by the Aperture Foundation to photograph the New York City Green Cart Initiative for 2010 -2011. Currently she is the Associate Curator for the Mason Gross Galleries in the Department for Visual Arts where she also teaches photography in the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ.