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Abstract

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s body of photographic work titled The Notion of Family (2003-2014) explores the toll the steel industry in Braddock, Pennsylvania, took on the black community there. The history of black Braddock is riddled with social, political, racial, economic and environmental hardship spurred on by the steel industry. Frazier intimately chronicles the lives of three generations of women—herself, her mother, and her grandmother—and their place in that history. The alternative visual narrative that Frazier creates commands viewers’ attention in telling a story that has been largely ignored by the American public. This essay contrasts Frazier’s work with that of painter Robert Qualters and photographer Barbara Peacock to assess how her images differ from other efforts to chronicle memory and history in small American towns.

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