Photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier was examining a book about the history of her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and noticed that it omitted African Americans entirely. Three photographs from her The Notion of Family series, which are featured in this exhibition, constitute her visual resistance to the “continued omission, erasure, invisibility, and silence surrounding African American sacrifices to Braddock and the American grand narrative.” The images, taken over twelve years, chronicle her own family’s life in Braddock, particularly focusing on the artist herself, her mother, and her grandmother. Braddock has struggled for decades due to the loss of steel industry jobs, the high incidence of pollution–borne illnesses, population loss, and redlining. Although race may have initially inspired her series, Frazier says her work points to societal issues beyond race: “This is a race and class issue that is affecting everyone. It is not a Black problem—it is an American problem, it is a global problem. Braddock is everywhere.”
Wielding her camera, as she says, as “a weapon” of change, performing and collaborating with her family and her community, Frazier resets a narrative and retells history. In conjunction with this exhibition, LaToya Ruby Frazier delivered the Chapman Lecture in the Humanities, “Art as Transformation: Using Photography for Social Change,” at Wofford College on October 3, 2019.