Artists Latoya Ruby Frazier and Larry Sultan, both express their art with a meaning behind it. Although both artists are using family for their project, they have different meanings either for a cause or a personal reminder. Frazier includes herself in the family photos along with buildings from Braddock, the town she grew up in. Her mother is in a lot of the photos, as Frazier mentions, collaborating with her mother on the work. Frazier uses her photos to tackle the subjects of class, healthcare and environmental racism. The town of Braddock used to be a booming town with a steel mill. The health problems from the steel mill, along with the loss of community, caused Braddock to lose most of its population. Health issues in her family and the drive to not be forgotten gave Frazier a purpose for her photos. Frazier surrounded herself with people who fought against oppression and pressed ahead for an outcome that is often overlooked. The people she went to school with helped her mold talent with a personal fight she was dealing with. Photographs done by Frazier and Sultan both contain the immediate family and are based mainly at their homes. Both artists also compare their pictures taken, with older pictures. Frazier realized that pictures taken of Braddock by other artists, lacked African-Americans, removing them from the history of the town. This is another meaning for her images, to bring African-Americans back into the history of her town, to not be forgotten, or pushed to the side as if they did not exist.
Sultan also compared his photographs with older photos. These photos however, were photographs of his family when he was younger. Even though both artists had taken pictures of their family for a long time; Sultan differs from Frazier in the concept of his photographs. His photographs started with the normal daily life. Focusing on the simple everyday things and not on big events that happen less often. At first his work focused on the functioning of human society. Later, he realized he was getting to know them better. The images he captured was helping him with the mental cage of letting go of his parents.
Both artists have plenty of family photos. Frazier has a family history in photos in multiple sections of the home. This gave me the feeling that her family photos held a great importance to them and showed an importance of family. I like that she has a deep meaning for showing her family, a story to tell that needs to be shown to others. Frazier shows the destruction of a town with the unity of family. A town represented as falling apart, along with health issues within her family, issues that are causing serious effects to her family. Even though the town is eroding, the people still stand, they live through the suffering that the town of Braddock had brought to its people through the still mill.
Sultan’s work shows a cultural difference in the life of his parents versus the timeline that we are currently in. This is shown in the clothing represented by the father and mother. His parents appear older than Frazier’s, but both families are fighting time and death. I am pulled by the activity his parents show in the photographs. They are depicted in a way that shows they are trying to live. They are still functioning and pressing forward, they had not given up on each other or life. This was not the intention of his photographs, they were meant to show a different side of his parents that are hidden to the public.
Sultan had Frazier both had difficulties in photographing their family. Frazier had trouble in showing how things really were and not how she wanted to be seen. She tackles this by using photographs of how she feels she looks and images of how she really sees herself. Then she used these images together to express that to the viewer. Frazier did not want to show the condition of her family, but she felt the story of her family in correlation to the city of Braddock, needed to be told. This gave her a reason beyond her feelings to express the situation through photography.
Sultan quickly realized the aging process while taking his photos. This was part of his struggle that changed his perspective on his purpose for photographing his parents. Sultan also realized, while looking back at older photos, that his parents had a life of their own before he was born. The issues were not only from his own understanding, but from his father’s understanding as well. His father disagreed with how he was portrayed in the images. For Sultan, separating his father’s feelings about how he wished to be represented, and telling his version of the truth was rough.
The hardest part would be the same as Frazier in showing how it really is and not how we want to see things. Sultans view of giving his vision of truth would also be a struggle. I could not collaborate or talk to my family about why I am taking certain pictures. Taking photos of them would be near impossible without telling them and causing issues that are not worth an assignment. When I think of this type of work, I run through negative ideas first, leaving me in a depression and downward spiral. I am starting to realize that simple is better and perhaps a different perspective of my overall goal is needed. I must look at smaller subjects and not the life and death issues at hand which are currently clouding my judgment.