Images are often more powerful, and certainly more permanent, than words.

Visual artist and advocate LaToya Ruby Frazier combines the two—photography/videography and her insight—to capture and explore social inequality and historical change in the postindustrial age.

“Each day, we’re bombarded by images: on billboards, on screens, in schools and in our bedrooms,” she contends in her biographical material. “And these images, largely corporate in origin, carry power—power to shape, control, and constrain—even when they offer a fantasy, or an outright lie.”

Frazier will headline Case Western Reserve University’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in January.

Free and open to the public

Frazier’s appearance, on Friday, Jan. 18 at 12:45 p.m. in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Ballroom at the Tinkham Veale University Center on campus, is free and open to the public. Registration is requested online on the University Events website. Tickets will not be issued; seating is first-come, first-served. Frazier’s talk will be followed by a light reception.

Each year, Case Western Reserve honors King—the holiday, the man and the legacy—with a celebration that includes workshops, films, panel discussions and acclaimed speakers. This year’s theme: “Through the Lens of our Stories: The King Legacy Today.”

“This year’s speaker inspires us to approach the celebration of Dr. King’s legacy from a new perspective—through the arts, through photography and through our stories about ourselves, our communities and our nation,” said Marilyn Sanders Mobley, the university’s vice president for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and professor of English and African American Studies. “It has never been more important for all of us to explore how we show up in our stories and in the current struggle for justice and equality than it is now.”

Photo of LaToya Ruby Frazier in her office.Frazier discusses how she has used photography to fight injustice—poverty, health care and gender inequality, environmental contamination, racism and more—and create a more representative self-portrait.

Drawing from her book The Notion of Family, as well as from works of art by Frederick Douglass, August Sander, Julia Margaret Cameron and Langston Hughes, she relates her conscious approach to photography, opens up more authentic ways to talk about family, inheritance and place, and celebrates the inspirational, transformative power of images.

Aerial view of oppression

In The Atlantic’s 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. issue, marking the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis, Frazier used a helicopter and aerial photography techniques to capture how that city, Baltimore and Chicago have responded to decades of oppression—nothing more revealing than her image of the dire Cabrini-Green public-housing project against the towering, glistening Chicago skyline.LaToya Ruby Frazier's aerial photograph of the Chicago skyline and Cabrini-Green public housing project.

“We cannot control the material circumstances of our birth, our families or our economic circumstances,” Frazier explains in her speaker’s promotional background. “But in order to change society—to seed real change and cultural transformation, especially for the marginalized and the forgotten—we must change the picture we have of ourselves and our communities.”

Chosen by Ebony magazine as one of its 100+ Most Powerful Women of All Time, Frazier uses her art form to build visual archives that address industrialism, rustbelt revitalization, environmental justice, health-care inequity and family and communal history.

Photo of building graffiti marking spot where Freddie Gray was murdered in Baltimore.

Photo by LaToya Ruby Frazier

Her first book, The Notion of Family, received the International Center for Photography Infinity Award. She has received the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

Born in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Frazier holds a BFA in applied media arts from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in art photography from Syracuse University. She has studied under the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and was the Guna S. Mundheim Fellow for visual arts at the American Academy in Berlin. She has previously held academic and curatorial positions at Yale University School of Art, Rutgers University and Syracuse.

Submit funding requests

The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee is accepting funding requests for programming in honor of the 2019 MLK Celebration, featuring speaker LaToya Ruby Frazier.

Case Western Reserve University departments, student organizations, offices and centers are encouraged to apply for funding for events or programs that relate to the MLK week theme—”Through the Lens of Our Stories: The King Legacy Today for Justice in Education,” the topics presented by the convocation speaker or the values that King embodied. Priority will be given for programs presented from Jan. 21 through February.

Co-sponsorships of events can range from $100 to $2,000. Past co-sponsorships have helped support speakers, films, displays, workshops, receptions, lunches and field trips. The deadline to submit funding requests is Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 5 p.m. Semnd direct questions about funding requests to Naomi Sigg at nxs399@case.edu.


For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at william.lubinger@case.edu