LaToya Ruby Frazier

Art is a weapon. Photos can change society—our view of ourselves and our communities.

Photographer speaking on family, communities, and environmental racism

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LaToya Ruby Frazier | Photographer speaking on family, communities, and environmental racism
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

For LaToya Ruby Frazier, art is a weapon—a catalyst for social justice. Her photographs and videos document today’s America: post-industrial cities riven by poverty, racism, healthcare inequality, and environmental toxicity. Bridging the personal with the social, her gorgeous and haunting shots amplify the voices of the most vulnerable and transform our sense of place and self. 

Visual Artist and TED Fellow LaToya Ruby Frazier works in photography, video, and performance art to build visual archives that address industrialism, rustbelt revitalization, environmental justice, healthcare inequity, and family and communal history. Her first book The Notion of Family received the International Center for Photography Infinity Award. Frazier has received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited widely in the US and internationally, with solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, Seattle Art Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

 

“Frazier’s furious realism seeks to recapture injustice, love, and moral outrage as subjects fit for the most urgent art of our time.”

The Village Voice

Born in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Frazier holds a BFA in applied media arts from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in art photography from Syracuse University. She has studied under the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and was the Guna S. Mundheim Fellow for visual arts at the American Academy in Berlin. She is Associate Professor, Photography, at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has previously held academic and curatorial positions at Yale University School of Art, Rutgers University, and Syracuse University. 

Speech Topics

Visual Artists
Art as Transformation Using Photography for Social Change

Each day, we’re bombarded by images: on billboards, on screens, in schools and in our bedrooms. And these images, largely corporate in origin, carry power—power to shape, control, and constrain—even when they offer a fantasy, or an outright lie.

That’s why, as LaToya Ruby Frazier argues, photography is a battleground of representation. We cannot control the material circumstances of our birth, our families or our economic circumstances. But in order to change society—to seed real change and cultural transformation, especially for the marginalized and the forgotten—we must change the picture we have of ourselves and our communities.

In this talk, Frazier discusses how she has used photography to fight injustice—poverty, healthcare and gender inequality, environmental contamination, racism, and more—and create a more representative self-portrait. Drawing from her book The Notion of Family as well as from works of art by Frederick Douglass, August Sander, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Langston Hughes, she relates her conscious approach to photography, opens up more authentic ways to talk about family, inheritance, and place, and celebrates the inspirational, transformative power of images.

 
Social Change
Socially Engaged Public and Private Storytelling
In this keynote, LaToya Ruby Frazier discusses the value of collaboration—with individuals, families, and communities—to create a powerful platform for social change. Today, mass media dictates the dominant narrative, often silencing vulnerable communities and perspectives. Parallel realities and experiences can be found across poor and working-class America—urban decay, white flight, economic stagnation, crime, illness, and unraveling civic connections—and these can make for a bleak vision of the country. However, there are ways to engage marginalized groups and individuals to amplify their voices, and come together with renewed agency. With references to art, activism, and grassroots political action, this keynote inspires audiences to use digital technology and storytelling together in order to foster greater empathy, connection, and understanding.