LaToya Ruby Frazier is an artist and a militant; her photos combine intimate views of her relation with her parents and grandparents with the history of the Afro-American community of Braddock, Pennsylvania, where she grew up and where her family still live.
She reports upon the decline of this steel-producing town, which was once prosperous and where the local population today is devastated by poverty, unemployment and health problems linked to pollution.
The town has currently closed the hospital which increases unemployment and makes access to treatment complicated for the residents of one of the most polluted towns in the USA.
Through this documentary work with ties to the intimate, she goes beyond the basic information to touch upon the human consequences of these tragedies.
Frazier's images are embedded in the history of the United States of America and they highlight what is unspoken in the social landscape. Her work is focused on the tragedy of Braddock, a town hit by a slow decay and increasing poverty (steel factories closing, crack epidemic, community debacle, disappearance of shops and urban equipment).
The captioned photographs of protests and advertising are printed with a textured effect, burnt-looking, recalling the “Rusty Belt” nickname for the steel factories of this region.
The portfolio reports on a new wave of devastation, that of a workers' culture in the process of disappearing.
In 2009, the Levi’s brand chose the town as the backdrop of its new advertising campaign, focusing on the figure of the “new pioneer”.
Frazier mixes photographs of this campaign with others of the town and its protests against the closure and destruction of the hospital in a form of critique of the utilization of this town and its population by Levi’s.
The juxtaposition of these images documents and denounces the violent and jarring economic ambiguity of the commercial dynamic that feeds off a tragedy and a decrepit context. The proceeds of the sale of these artworks will go to the activist groups fighting for the reconstruction of the hospital.