LaToya Ruby Frazier was born in 1982 in Braddock, Pennsylvania, formerly worked in New York, and currently lives and works in Chicago. An artist and activist, Frazier uses photography, video, and performance to document personal and social histories of midwestern America. Having grown up in the shadow of the steel industry, Frazier has chronicled the health and environmental crisis facing her family and her hometown since she was a teenager. Realizing at a young age that media depictions of people like herself did not accurately represent her life, she employs a radical black-and-white documentary approach that captures the complexity, injustice, and simultaneous hope within America.
Frazier reports drawing and painting from a young age, and credits her Grandma Ruby’s with setting high expectations for her achievements. Entering college at 17, Frazier studied photography under Kathe Kowalski, who became an important mentor, introducing her to feminist theory, semiotics and the political uses, good and bad, of photography. Frazier graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography and Graphic Design from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and in 2007 received a Masters of Fine Art Photography from the School of Visual Performing Arts at Syracuse University. After participating in the 2010–11 Whitney Independent Study Program, she began teaching at Yale University.