LaToya Ruby Frazier born in Pittsburgh PA in 1982 received her BFA in Photography and Graphic Design in 2004 at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She received her MFA in Art Photography from the School of Visual Performing Arts in 2007 at Syracuse University. She has been an artist in resident at Art Omi in 2009, Center for Photography at Woodstock in 2008 and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2007. She is currently an artist and resident at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and New York University in New York City.

With influences of documentary photography and direct cinema Frazier utilizes photography and video to produce work that intensely explores her family’s intergenerational lineage by defining the lines between private and public space, emotion, reality, memory and human complexity.

The Notion of Family, is a collaborative development between her grandmother, mother and herself. Through black and white photographs and an experimental documentary video series, A Mother to Hold, Frazier’s honest and relentless approach intensely explores their psychological intergenerational lineage through the 1930s, 1960s and 1980s.

A Mother to Hold was screened at the Black Maria Film Festival in Jersey City, NJ, San Diego Women’s Film Festival, Aurora Picture Show in Houston Texas, Brooklyn Underground Film Festival, the Black International Film Festival and the Women of Color Film Festival in New York City where she received the Producers Choice Award.

Frazier’s work has been written about in The New York Times, The New Yorker, ArtForum, Artnet, The Brooklyn Rail and The Village Voice. She received the 2007 Geraldine Dodge Fellowship Award as the 2006 College Art Association Professional development recipient. She is a member of En Foco and Society for Photographic Education. Her works have been exhibited in many exhibitions including, The New Museum, Bronx Museum, National Academy Museum, in New York City and internationally in Copenhagen Denmark. Her work is represented by Higher Pictures in New York City.

Frazier has worked as a photo editor for Newsweek and is currently the Associate Curator for the Mason Gross Galleries in the Department for Visual Arts where she also teaches photography in the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ.

Artist’s statement

The Notion of Family

The collaboration between my family and myself blurs the line between self-portraiture and social document. Utilizing photography and video to navigate dynamics of the roles we play complicates the usual classifications of functional and dysfunctional families. Our work defines the lines between private and public space, emotion, reality, memory and human complexity.

My work has a deep concern for the mother/ daughter relationship. Relentlessly
documenting encounters with Grandma Ruby (b.1925), Mom (b.1959) and myself (b.1982) enables me to break unspoken intergenerational cycles. We are wrestling with internalized life experiences and perceptions of our-selves and familial personas developed by sociopolitical baggage.

Grandma Ruby played the role of mother to me and JC, and caretaker to her father, Gramps. Being home consisted of routine checks on Gramps who screamed for help to be picked up off the floor or carried to the bathroom. If we were not tending to Gramps we sat in separate rooms. Family secrets, hidden history and constant silence defined our coexistence.

Mom is co-author, artist, photographer and subject. Our relationship primarily exists through a process of making images together. I see beauty in all her imperfections and abuse. Her drug addiction is secondary to our psychological connection. When we are photographing one another we meditate on our difference and sameness.

Holiday visits home rupture the silent familial gaze in our experimental documentary series “A Mother to Hold” Through the first person point of view, the camera becomes a magnet attracting and repelling; the viewer has the access to experience and acknowledge our relationship without judgment.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s photography and her notion and statement shook me up. To be honest, I won’t write how her works relate to my final project– her statement and photos just enticed me to choose her as a part of my artist research. Nobody would not know how much I feel the same the way she concerns her mother. She wrote “my work has a deep concern for the mother/daughter relationship.” Frazier’s photo that captured the moment of her “mother and her boyfriend” was striking. How daring her approach to blurr the boundary of relationship between the mother and daughter is! Her eyes over the lens watching her mother seem objective and dry; she focuses the camera on the subject, not her mother. I have never considered my mother as a human being not different from me, myself as she does. My mother was my mother. I would never be able to take a scene of my mom,almost naked, lying on the bed with her boyfriend and even expose it to the world. I would not. Moreover, She did not put any private feeling or emotion into her photography. As I mentioned, she took photos of her subject. Seemingly it is normal, no more no less than everyday life. She demolished a wall between her mother and herself. Yes, a wall named blood relationship, mother and daughter. Frazier admitted her mother as a woman and individual. She confronted her mother’s presence itself. Does it seem easy? No, it is not. To see my mother as a woman is not easy because most daughters are not willing to do. Sons as well as daughters set an image of their mothers as they like and expect their mothers are like that image in their minds.They should recognize mother is a woman before a mother. Mothers are not that strong as they expect; they can be easily hurt, terrified, and depressed, like many othe people. Daughters must confront their mothers like Frazier does before they’d regret bitterly their immature behaviors toward mothers.

I was quite impressed by how she clearly defines and states it, and I toally agree with it– “We are wrestling with internalized life experiences and perceptions of our-selves and familial personas developed by sociopolitical baggage.”