For her commitment to use photography as a powerful tool for advancing social justice, pioneering artist LaToya Ruby Frazier is named the inaugural recipient of a new prize awarded by The Gordon Parks Foundation and Steidl.
The Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize serves as a publishing platform for artists whose practice reflects and extends the legacy of Gordon Parks. Conceived by The Gordon Parks Foundation and Steidl, the Göttingen, Germany-based art book publisher, the Prize goes to artists whose work exemplifies Parks’ commitment to using photography as a powerful tool for advancing social justice. The inaugural recipient in 2020 is LaToya Ruby Frazier.
“Gordon Parks’ vision and actions as a photographer, composer, filmmaker, and writer have taught me to fight for humanity, empathy, justice, and integrity in all of my photographs,” Frazier said. “His everlasting endurance to unveil the power of visual storytelling on his own terms, in the face of bigotry, violence, and institutional inequality, teach me to create works of art that lift the voice and visibility of the people in ways that triumph over systemic and structural abuse in America.”
Frazier’s book, to be published in 2021, will feature new work by the artists and texts by notable writers, and will be edited by Michal Raz-Russo, Associate Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago. Each book resulting from the Prize will be marked by an exhibition and programming that will further advance the foundation’s mission to extend Parks’ collaborative legacy to a range of artistic, cultural, and scholarly practices—by addressing how art can perpetuate social, cultural, and political change.
In tandem with the launch of the Prize is the opening of a comprehensive Steidl Library at The Gordon Parks Foundation in Pleasantville, New York. Encompassing more than 3,000 Steidl art and photography books, essay books, the collection includes out-of-print, one-of-a-kind, and limited-edition publications that are rarely-seen or often inaccessible to scholars and the public. The Library includes works by some of the most significant artists and photographers across history, in addition to Gordon Parks, including Bernice Abbott, William Eggleston, Robert Frank, Karl Lagerfeld, and Dayanita Singh. Access to the collection will be available to researchers by appointment beginning later this year.
The Foundation and Steidl have worked together since 2010, having published eleven books including the recently released Gordon Parks x Muhammad Ali (2019). Other collaborations include catalogues for major museum exhibitions, including The New Tide, Early Work 1940-1950 (2018) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., The Flavio Story (2017) at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem (2016) at the Art Institute of Chicago. The full list of publications is available here.
LaToya Ruby Frazier is a visual artist known for collaborative storytelling with the people who appear in her photographs, videos, texts, and performances. Her use of the photograph as a platform for social justice and visual representation for working-class families is rooted in her commitment to expose the violation of basic human rights and promote environmental justice, access to healthcare, education, employment, and migration and immigration equity. Her photographs often become a source of empowerment that leads to creative solutions.
Her well-known bodies of work include: The Notion of Family, three generations of women in Frazier’s own family, including herself, surviving environmental racism and healthcare inequality in steel mill town, Braddock, Pennsylvania; Flint Is Family, portraits of three generations of women surviving the man-made water crisis in Flint, Michigan; and And From The Coaltips A Tree Will Rise, coalminers’ reflections on their memories of migration, immigration, work and labor in coalmining village, Borinage Belgium.
Frazier’s newest work, The Last Cruze, is a monument and memorial comprised of 67 photographs and texts on an assembly line for auto workers from the historic labor union United Auto Workers Local 1112 in Lordstown, Ohio. Frazier documented the unallocated status and closure of the General Motors Lordstown Complex in northeast Ohio and the impact on autoworkers, their families and the community.
Frazier is an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a 2015 MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow, a 2016 Gordon Parks Foundation Award recipient for her contribution to photography and visual arts. LaToya Ruby Frazier is represented by Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York City and Rome.