On October 10th, the recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, LaToya Ruby Frazier had a conversation on her first book, The Notion of Family, with Dawoud Bey, who is well-known for his community-based portraitures at Aperture Gallery and Bookstore. They discussed the creation of The Notion of Family, which has just been published by Aperture Foundation in this September, and the ideas that informed her practice. Frazier’s work addresses the issues of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns. She reveals the reality that is omitted or avoided in mainstream media representation. She started her project by shooting portraits with her mother, grandma, then expanded to photograph other family members, people, events and landscapes of her hometown, Braddock. Frazier’s book offers an incisive exploration of the impact that the economic decline did to residents’ life in these oblivious small towns with black & white photographs and text.
What is particularly interesting is how Frazier understands the notion of documentary. According to her, originally the word “document” means “to teach”. That is how she sees The Notion of Family, a historical book that can be used as an educational material.
The conversation provided a rich context for reading the book, The Notion of Family, which might be the first part of her “trilogy”, as she plans to make two more books in the future.
Text and photographs by Ranran Fan