An invitation to meet LaToya Ruby Frazier

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.

The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Pg 129: Momme Silhouettes, 2010

Politics for the People Conference Call

With LaToya Ruby Frazier

Sunday, December 6th at 7 pm EST

 C ALL IN NUMBER

641 715-3605

Code 767775#

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Paul Graham on Photography

For my current class at ICP (Photography as Practise: The Daily Blog), Lauren Silberman asked us to read two essays by Paul Graham.  Graham is a British photographer whose work explores “… the fertile territory where the descriptive and artistic aspects of photography coalesce, often tackling difficult subject matter for a medium that engages with the observable world.” (Gallery Press Release, 2008).

We read The Unreasonable Apple from February 2010 and Photography is Easy, Photography is Difficult, his Yale MFA Photography Graduation speech from February 2009.

Here are several quotes that are thought provoking, inspiring and challenging…interspersed with several of Graham’s images from different projects.

“…there remains a sizeable part of the art world that simply does not get photography.  They get artists who use photography to illustrate their ideas, installations, performances and concepts, who ‘deploy’ the medium as one of a range of artistic strategies to complete their work.  But photography for and of itself–photographs taken from the world as it is–are misunderstood as a collection of random observations and lucky moments, or muddled up with photojournalism, or tarred with a semi-derogatory ‘documentary’ tag.”  (The Unreasonable Apple)

“…how do you explain what Garry Winogrand did on a real New York street when he ‘just’ took the picture?  Or for that matter what Stephen Shore created with his deadpan image of a crossroads in El Paso?  Anyone with an ounce of sensitivity knows they did something there, and something utterly remarkable at that, but…what?  How do we articulate this uniquely photographic creative act, and express what it amounts to….?” (The Unreasonable Apple)

Television Portraits, Paul Graham

on the nature of photography of a certain kind:

“…the nature of the creative act when you dance with life itself–when you form the meaningless world into photographs, then form those photographs into a meaningful world.” (The Unreasonable Apple)

Paul Graham

From Empty Heaven, Paul Graham, 1989-1995

“…artists strive to pierce the opaque thershold of the now, to express something of the thus and so of life at the point they recognised it.  They struggle through photography to to define these moments and bring them forward in time to us, to the here and now, so that with the clarity of hindsight, we may glimpse something of what it was they perceived.  Perhaps here we have stumbled upon a partial, but nonetheless astonishing description of the creative act at the heart of serious photography: nothing less than the measuring and folding of the cloth of time itself.”

From Toubled Land by Paul Graham, 1984-86

In an interview with Graham in June of 2007, Richard Woodward asked him about the appeal of photography books.  As someone who LOVES and spends way too much money on photography books, I just had to share Graham’s response.

“John Gossage made a great comment that his books are the original work. It’s the summation of one’s endeavors—the book is the work. Now, a painter or a sculptor can have a catalogue of their work but… it’s completely different in photography. It is the exact thing—maybe a little smaller scale—but with a one-on-one dialogue when you read it. Looking at a Nan Goldin book is quite different from viewing her photographs on the wall with other people around you. The book is personal and direct, from the artist to you, complete and faithful.”