I am an independent political activist and community organizer in the community of independent voters, now 45% of Americans. I am the Vice President for National Development with Independent Voting. Several years ago I founded a book club for independent minded Americans, Politics for the People. It is an unusual book club in several ways: we have members from all over the U.S.; we meet via conference call and read a wide range of selections and talk about them on the blog. Best of all, each book club selection culminates with the author joining us on the call for an in-depth conversation.
Our current selection is The Notion Of Family, the gut wrenching, achingly beautiful and evocative photobook by LaToya Ruby Frazier. I am a passionate lover of the photobook as a way to tell stories, give the viewer a new set of eyes, an entry to a new world or a look at something that is hard to comprehend and this book is among the very best!
I first met LaToya Ruby Frazier when I was taking a class at the International Center for Photography. My professor, Carrie Schneider brought the class to a group exhibit where LaToya had several pieces in her Braddock, PA series. We spoke briefly, I loved her images for their intimacy and their demand that we own Braddock and see what has happened to the African American community.
When I saw The Notion Of Family, I knew that I wanted to share this book with the Politics for the People membership. For 12 years, LaToya worked on this project, bringing the camera into her family and hometown of Braddock. What was once a beacon of hope and a thriving milltown…now is yet another city of economic decline and abandonment of the African American community. In her images, LaToya not only asks the viewer to see Braddock and the impact of environmental racism, poverty and the lack of health care; she also gives us her family, and the beauty of forbearance and creativity.
It is also the story of LaToya, her mother and grandmother. Her mother became her collborator in making many of the photographs in the book. There is a daring honesty in their work together. And they played, they created together, they told stories. I fell in love with them, could not wait to turn the page to see where next they would take us. I can’t wait to talk with LaToya on our Dec 6th conference call about how this process changed and impacted on their relationship.
The images below, Momme Silhouettes are among my favorite in the book. They are a break from the harshness of poverty and the slow abandonment of Braddock…LaToya and her mother create a beautiful play for us, asking questions, showing attitude, grace, longing and all behind the sheet.
Hope you will join me in conversation with LaToya this Sunday at 7 pm EST. And I hope that you will visit the Politics for the People blog and read what our members have written about the book.