In this, her first book, LaToya Ruby Frazier offers an incisive exploration of the legacy of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns, as embodied by her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. The work also considers the impact of that decline on the community and on her family, creating a statement both personal and truly political—an intervention in the histories and narratives of the region. Frazier has compellingly set her story of three generations—her Grandma Ruby, her mother, and herself—against larger questions of civic belonging and responsibility. The work documents her own struggles and interactions with family and the expectations of community. With The Notion of Family, Frazier enlists the participation of her family—and her mother in particular. In the creation of these collaborative works, Frazier reinforces the idea of art and image-making as a transformative act, a means of resetting traditional power dynamics and narratives, both those of her family and those of the community at large.
I am here in a most wonderful out-of-the-world place, which looks as if it had begun to be built yesterday, and were going to be imperfectly knocked together with a nail or two the day after tomorrow.
—Letter from Charles Dickens upon visiting Syracuse in 1869, quoted in New York, A Guide To the Empire State (WPA, 1940)
Images, from top to bottom, left to right:
1. Syracuse, NY
2. Syracuse, NY
3. Etna, PA
4. Cleveland, OH
5. Pittsburgh, PA
6. Braddock, PA
7. Stowe Township, PA
8. Stratton, OH
9. Syracuse, NY
* * *
Dan Wetmore is from Pittsburgh, PA. He could have been from Buffalo or Cleveland and the story would have been the same: he developed a fondness for the rich industrial history and aesthetic that surrounded him. Still, he could have been from Miami or LA: he digs photo. He received his BFA from Syracuse University in 2013 and still lives there—immersed in the photo community, a TA at the university, a lab intern at Light Work. He works at a food cooperative, drives and maintains a Buick wagon and is into local food. Find more of his work on his website, cargocollective.com/danwetmore, follow him on Tumblr at dans240z.tumblr.com and check out Golden Dawn, his upcoming show at Light Work in Syracuse (3/17-5/30/14).
This dispatch arrived care of THE AMERICAN GUIDE submission page. Be a guide yourself and send a post from your state: theamericanguide.org/submit.
Parade on Edgewood Avenue in Braddock, PIttsburgh, PA during the Westinghouse strike of 1914.
“The 1914 strike at the Union Switch & Signal Plant began on June 12th when between 1,100 and 1,400 employees walked out at lunch time to picket and join some 2000 strikers from other Westinghouse plants marching on Edgewood and Braddock Avenues in Swissvale. Organized by the Allegheny Congenial Industrial Union, the strikers demanded an eight-hour day, reinstatement of discharged union men, permission for workmen to elect grievance committees, and higher overtime and holiday rates. The union claimed victory upon culmination of the walkout on June 27th, saying that the company had agreed to allow committees and consider the other grievances. Company general manager H.G. Prout dismissed these claims however, asserting that no promises were made to the employees.”
My great-grandmother’s family lived in this neighborhood and must have watched the strike.