LaToya Ruby Frazier - Met Artists Project S. 3

SINCE SHE WAS A TEENAGER, LaToya Ruby Frazier has been using a camera to document her family and community. Growing up in Braddock, Pa., where the steel mill was the chief employer, her photographic endeavor became a serious pursuit when the industry collapsed. The local economy failed and its citizens faced critical health challenges caused by the environmental hazards left behind.

Today, the photographer and artist describes her work as social documentary photography. She says early on she was “obsessed with early 20th century social documentary photography and that in the photo history books that she was trained with one of the only significant African Americans was Gordon Parks.”

So when the Metropolitan Museum of Art invited Frazier to participate in The Artist Project and asked her to choose a work from the institution’s vast collection that inspires her, she selected “Red Jackson,” a 1948 gelatin silver print by Parks.

The image depicts a Harlem gang leader Leonard Jackson, who goes by “Red” and was featured in the legendary photographer’s first assignment for Life magazine. Frazier is drawn to the fact that it’s a “non-jundgemental portrait.”

Parks, she says, “allows the poor and the ostracized and the alienated to have power and an authority in their images because he is shooting it with so much dignity and human awareness and care.”

Gordon Parks “allows the poor and the ostracized and the alienated to have power and an authority in their images because he is shooting it with so much dignity and human awareness and care.”
— LaToya Ruby Frazier, The Met

He knew how to “balance this cruel and tender world in a poetic way,” Frazier says.

Along with Njideka Akunyili Crosb, Kalup Linzy, and 13 other artists, Frazier was selected to participate in Season 3 of the Met’s yearlong project. Launched in March 2015, over the course of five seasons, the museum is asking 100 artists from around the world what they “see when they look at The Met.” Previous seasons of The Artist Project have featured Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall and Mickalene Thomas, among others. Season 4 begins on Dec. 7. CT

SEE Season 1 and Season 2.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby on Georges Seurat’s “Embroidery; The Artist’s Mother”
Born in Nigeria, Njideka Akunyili Crosby lives and works in Los Angeles where her first solo exhibition in the city just opened at Art + Practice, presented in conjunction with “Hammer Projects: Njideka Akunyili Crosby” at the Hammer Museum (Oct. 3, 2015-Jan. 10, 2016).


LaToya Ruby Frazier on “Red Jackson” by Gordon Parks
Photographer and artist LaToya Ruby Frazier lives and works between New Brunswick, N.J., Braddock, Pa., and New York. On Oct. 16, “Performing Social Landscapes,” her first solo institutional exhibition in France opens at Carré d’Art-Musée d’Art Contemporain in Nimes (through March 13, 2016).


Kalup Linzy on Edouard Manet
Video and performance artist Kalup Linzy lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. His work is on view in “Radical Presence; Black Performance in Contemporary Art” at the Yerba Buena Arts Center in San Francisco (through Oct. 11).