JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION
Latoya Ruby Frazier, an acclaimed photographer, is using her platform to shine a light on disenfranchised communities in postindustrial towns across the U.S.
After receiving a master’s degree in art photography, Frazier, 35, went on to teach at schools such as Yale. Her work lives in spaces like the Brooklyn Museum and Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. In 2015, she won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship: “It’s a vindication for all the hardships, injustices and inequalities my family endured to provide a future for me.”
“My work addresses the humanity of the working class—individuals and families without access to social or economic opportunity.”
“We live in a society that disregards and often holds contempt for elders, single-parent households, those affected by environmental racism, women in prison…. Simply, we have not eradicated these injustices. Until we do, I will continue to use my creativity as a witness and testimony.”
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“Gordon Parks’s work taught me how to speak through photographs. Carrie Mae Weems’s work taught me how to take responsibility for my photographs. bell hooks would visit my mentor’s classes. Seeing them planted a seed for me.”
“I was raised by my grandmother in Braddock, Pennsylvania, in an area known as The Bottom, [which is] near the first steel mill built by Andrew Carnegie. I started out doing drawings and paintings of Grandma Ruby and her stepfather, Gramps, who was a retired steel mill worker. I turned to visual arts to address my concerns regarding the socioeconomic hardships my hometown was facing.”
“My grandmother and mother were extremely protective of me. I realized that their fierce protection came from a place, space and time where nobody had protected them. Their strength, courage and generosity have influenced me to speak out and resist inequality with unwavering determination.”
This feature originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of ESSENCE magazine
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