LaToya Ruby Frazier

Produced with  Cool Hunting

LaToya Ruby Frazier is featured in Cool Hunting 25, a showcase, presented in partnership with Cadillac, of 25 creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

For over 12 years, visual artist LaToya Ruby Frazier has been exploring America’s economic future by looking at a present-day microcosm through a very personal lens. The TED Fellow has captured and compiled photos and videos of her hometown Braddock, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the US steel industry that has fallen victim to corporate irresponsibility, environmental decay, segregation and white flight. Frazier’s photos reveal this, but weave in the very personal context of her own family. With an overarching theme of industry versus environment, the series focuses on the people that have been damaged in the process.

“I am not a journalist,” Frazier shares. “I am a conceptual documentary artist that is using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard. I am pushing for cultural and social change through a different story that runs parallel to a lot of the media coverage discussing Braddock… that avoids crucial issues.” Having witnessed the problems first hand, her images make powerful statements.

The significance of the situation keeps her going, year after year. “It is the fact that we still haven’t dealt with this as a society or culture,” she explains. “A slow violence is occurring all the time. The media and journalists tend to go toward headlines, but this is something that has been slowly troubling for a long time. This is about how industry impacted quality of life, and led to conditions of economic inequality… I am staying inspired because I am watching history repeat itself with the rise of the creative class—people not interested or invested in the residents that have taken the last 30 year hit.”

“I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist that is using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard. ”

While Frazier makes clear that Braddock is a unique place, where lives have been given and lost to an industrial capitalist model, she also recognizes that these are “global issues and a global economy.” As a microcosm, the town and the artist’s treatment of it make a pressing statement. As Frazier reminds us, “If we fail to change, history will repeat itself.”


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