LaToya Frazier, an artist from Braddock, Pennsylvania, discussed how art is revolutionary. She is living with lupus, a chronic illness, due to the poor water conditions of her old mill town. She uses her photography as a protest to demonstrate the struggles the people who live in that town and other places similar experience. She said that her goal is to make visible the invisible reality of systematic racism and oppression that usually go unseen. She documents her family to demonstrate the intergenerational pain that was caused by the fail of industry in her town and the lack of aid and criminalization of those who still live in Braddock. Her work explores familial relations, landscape, and personal and social activism to fight for basic human rights for the folks who are victims of environmental racism.
Usually, the images people produce are their best selves. In other words, the images people take and share show themselves how they want to be viewed by the world. These pictures tend to be of friends, eating at nice restaurants, maybe at a party. However, Frazier challenges these assumptions, while still producing images of how she wants to be viewed by the world. Her pictures are of her and her family’s pain, illnesses, dying town, and the isolation they feel. She does this to demonstrate life in Braddock because she believes, “history of a place is written on the body.” So often, the media and photographers show snapshots of places like Braddock when there is a disaster or something they deem “newsworthy”. This was seen in Flint, Michigan. People were horrified for maybe a month when Obama drank the dirty water, however the tribulations of that population have now been ignored again, with no change in policy or aid. However, when this lack of resources and criminalization of a population is ever-present, it becomes easier for the privileged majority of the U.S. to ignore these issues. However, this erasure is ignoring real people and is creating very real consequences for the quality of their lives.
Her success stemmed from her lack of ability to do something. She saw injustices not only with the environment, but also with health care and drug wars. She found her voice through photography. Documentation was her power. She learned to make pictures and show what people do not see. She learned to use stereotypes of people to reframe them. Her images became her message, and she was responsible for them. So often, images that are distributed perpetuate negative stereotypes and racism. The media choses to select certain images, distort others, and omit the rest. The media has its own agenda, controlled by the few, and as a business, tend to focus on topics that will not garner any backlash from those in power. Frazier’s activism through her work with her camera is necessary to bring to light the struggles of people that we do not see in the media.