artist / participant
The American photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier has become a big name in Braddock, a district of Pittsburgh, in the heart of the Rust Belt. The bottom was a reference to the lower part of the city, the poorest and closest to the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, established in 1872 by Andrew Carnegie. It was there that, at the age of sixteen, LaToya Ruby Frazier discovered the need to depict the impact of deindustrialisation on the African American community, by photographing her family through three generations of women (her grandmother, her mother and herself), as well as the countryside in this former steel-making heartland, which was then abandoned. The recent history of Braddock, with a sudden upsurge of unemployment, rise in poverty, demographic migration, outbreak of disease, hospital closures and drug use, is even depicted through bodies and countryside which LaToya Ruby Frazier juxtaposes in The Notion of Family. Epitomising the heritage of socio-documentary photography initiated by the FSA (Farm Security Administration), LaToya Ruby Frazier continues this work archiving the reality of the working classes, begun in the 1930s by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks and others, playing on the interior – which is what makes everything stand out – its history and her own. Her political commitment and her fight against social inequalities are depicted through her wonderful photographs. So with this conceptual aspect, her photography has more than just strictly documentary status. As she takes up her stand at MAC’s, this American artist has delved into the history of Borinage and the coal industry by meeting former miners and their families to actively experience for herself what they have been through, by means of photographs of life. If the The Notion of Family series is anything to go by, this new exhibition could be seen as a prehistoric interpretation of Braddock's decline in the 1990s. It is through this return trip between the two works which convey the respective histories of Borinage and Braddock that the universal nature of the work of LaToya Ruby Frazier really comes out. Winner of the MacArthur Grant prize in 2015, LaToya Ruby Frazier is now considered a top photographer of her generation. She has exhibited in the United States and France. Her work is seen in many museum and private collections, including the MoMA and Pinault collection.