diversity & race | November 24, 2017

Memorializing America’s Black Working Class: LaToya Ruby Frazier, Artist/Archivist, is “A Public Figure the Country Needs”

In a New Yorker feature this week: “LATOYA RUBY FRAZIER can capture the decline of an entire economy; the vulnerable cycles of American industry, within a single human face.” In Frazier’s expansive new photography exhibit, On the Making of Steel Genesis, the single human face is Sandra Gould Ford—long-time secretary at the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company in Pittsburgh, and archivist of black working-class life. 

Once she started photographing the self-appointed archivist, Frazier couldn’t stop. But, says The New Yorker, “theirs was not the conventional dynamic of artist and muse; both photographer and subject are black women at work,”—Frazier as portraitist, and Ford as documenter of “the human traces of the factory infrastructure.” This represents an important complication to the conventions of portraiture, and a natural extension of Frazier’s award-winning collection, The Notion of Family, which explores the legacy of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns.      


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The show is currently on view at the August Wilson Center, in Pittsburgh. LaToya Ruby Frazier is a MacArthur Fellow, one of Ebony’s 100 Most Powerful Women of All Time, and award-winning photographer and documentarian. She speaks on the power of the artist as an agent of transformative change and social justice. To book her for your next speaking engagement, contact The Lavin Agency.    

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