What is the responsibility of an artist to her community? In this film, artist and activist LaToya Ruby Frazier discusses the economic and environmental decline of her hometown—Braddock, Pennsylvania—the city that the clothing company Levi’s used as inspiration and backdrop for a major advertising campaign in 2010. Having photographed in Braddock since she was sixteen years old, Frazier’s black-and-white images of her family and their surroundings present a stark contrast to the campaign images of “urban pioneers” and slogans such as “everybody’s work is equally important.” In a performance developed in collaboration with the artist Liz Magic Laser, Frazier carries out a choreographed series of movements on the sidewalk in front of the temporary Levi’s Photo Workshop in SoHo. Wearing a costume of ordinary Levi’s clothes, the artist’s repetitive and relentless motion ultimately destroys the jeans she’s wearing.

LaToya Ruby Frazier (b. 1982, Braddock, Pennsylvania, USA) lives and works in New Brunswick, New Jersey and New York, New York.

CREDITS | “New York Close Up” Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: John Marton & Andrew David Watson. Sound: Nicholas Lindner & Nick Ravich. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Paulina V. Ahlstrom, Don Edler & Maren Miller. Design: Open. Artwork: LaToya Ruby Frazier & Liz Magic Laser. Additional Photography: Liz Magic Laser. Thanks: Kim Bourus, Ron Clark, Higher Pictures & The Whitney Independent Study Program. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2011. All rights reserved.

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20 Responses to LaToya Ruby Frazier Takes on Levi’s

  1. Kenyatta Manley says:

    Wish I lived in New York (or was at least visiting soon) i would love to see this film!

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  2. Quintin Griffin says:

    Thank you, Latoya Ruby Frazier for your fight for informational and visual justice on this issue in advertisment and things that it effects. Keep creating within your purpose.

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  3. Stephanie S says:

    I enjoyed the piece but with so much information missing, seems like a poor representation of the story. No mention that all the models were Braddock residents. No mention that in return, Braddock is receiving a full scale Community Center for the residents. Especially no mention that Mrs. Frazier expressed great interest in being part of the campaign as a photographer.

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_731666.html

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  4. Romke says:

    How is Levi’s the enemy here? Does that ad not call for equality henceforth – in the face of the town’s dark past?

    That aside, why did she not do it in front of Levi’s’ corporate building? Is she trying to make a statement or impress fellow artists?

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    • TheVoice says:

      You hit it right out of the ballpark! Maybe this “activism” will score her some photography work. Go Levi’s!

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  5. Betsy says:

    The ad may try to call for equality, however, like LaToya said, “Go Forth. Go Forth WHERE?”. I grew up in Braddock, and it is HARD TO GET OUT… and while there, it’s even HARDER TO SURVIVE. The place is a wasteland. It’s a dump. There is NOTHING there but poverty, illness, drugs, dog fighting, gangs, elderly with no family and no resources, new young families with no help of any kind, bars, shootings, oh and train tracks.
    In regards to the “residents” featured in the ad campaign, NOT all of them are residents, and if they are, they’ve only been there for a year or two since the artist lofts opened up. I have yet to see more than one or two people who lived there for a significant period of time, grew up there, watched the area decline further and further. Braddock is a small place, we all know each other.
    As for the money and facility Braddock received for allowing the Levi’s ad, yes, that’s nice and all….. but what child will be going to a park when there’s thugs on the street harassing them? What teenager is really going to forego the predetermined life path he’s set to fulfill to go and hang out at a youth center? Some might, and good for them if they do. If they can get avoid the gangs, drugs, and violence to make a change, then wonderful…. but sadly, this is a rarity.
    Currently, Braddock is waste and breeds waste while living in waste. Occasionally, a flower grows from the muck and turns into something beautiful, and tries to do something positive. These are the people who need commendations. For returning to this crappy little town to make a real change.
    But for Levi’s to make Braddock look gritty, urban, hip, and cool…. and for UPMC to completely turn their backs on this small community who NEEDS the help…. well, I’ve been disgusted, and obviously others from Braddock are too.
    THANK YOU LATOYA FOR MAKING THIS. For making a POINT to both corporations.

    I think this video was a great F YOU to the ad campaign as well as UPMC. Thanks, LaToya!

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  6. TheVoice says:

    Someone sounds bitter that they didn’t get the photography gig!

    We should be honoring Levi’s for not being one more brand to pay a model 5 million to pose, and instead is putting their money back into the community. Corporate Responsibility … Beautiful work Levi’s!

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  7. Joel Rice says:

    Braddock is not waste, breeding waste. I live here now, not in the distant past, and I will go toe to toe with anyone who wants to denigrate my town. I freely admit that Braddock has mammoth problems that require urgent attention. And I’m glad that Ms. Frazier offered her response to the Levi’s campaign. Anytime someone talks about the problems that Braddock faces is a cause for celebration. But there are worse problems here than Levi’s getting the lucky break of the century by having a bunch of photogenic upper middle class young people move here shortly before they decided to shoot their campaign here. US Steel’s Edgar Thomson steel mill in Braddock is WAY outside air quality standards and Allegheny county doesn’t have the will to do anything about it. PennFuture just sued the county for not recording negative comments in meeting minutes. ( http://pennfuture.org/media_pr_detail.aspx?MediaID=1306&Home=Y ) The saddest thing about this is that Dr. Bruce Dixon mentioned in the suit owns a huge mansion in Braddock that is his “hobby”. ( http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07216/806814-30.stm ) If you were going to label Braddock a place for upper middle-class people to play in while not actually taking any action to improve, I would argue with you; but, you’d have a point. It’s time for people to stop commenting on Braddock and start fighting for Braddock. It is worth fighting for.

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  8. Blind we are not says:

    I find it beyond comprehension, with the country in the economic state that it’s in, for anyone to call a company “corporate responsible” when that company dosent even have a plant operating in the united States. To say we should honor it!! Unless that person is very misinformed or, in this case, probably just plian ingnorant. Even more likley in on the take. What Levi’s did was plain and simple expliotation. It seems to me that some seem bitter because someone had the brians to shine a light on the corruption and self-enrichment schemes that’s taking place there in that town.

    Yes indeed. Do-going is in vogue and Levi’s and the corrupt non profit that they gave the money to (they didnt give it to the town) are misleading and deceiving all those who are ignorant to fall for it. For all their publicity stunts and feel-good lines the fact remains, besides the million dollar cummunity center (which is ownded by the non-profit AKA Mayor John), the rest of the town is left to fend for itself and dwells in the ruins of pure neglect.
    The shame of it all is that the very people who are being victimized and rely on this so called non-profit and Levi’s do-gooding are used as the vehicles for the self-enrichment schemes that’s being perpetuated upon them. Exaggerating accomplishments and self congratulations to cover the raw abuse and fraud that’s taking place while leaving only the crumbs for a cummunity that just losts it’s hospital. How ridiculous can it be for a non profit to recieve $750,000 from Levi’s (with more to come), a $200,000 economic development “GRANT” and a $100,00 Federal Economic development “GRANT” for a community center???? There seems to be a continum of political whores involved. In any case to attack or questions Ms. Fraziers motives without knowing the facts are just despicable…….unless of course your in on the take or is somehow benefiting from this deceit. On thing is forsure Braddock, PA isn’t.

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    • michelle says:

      Ignorant is MISSPELLING the word ignorant.

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      • Blind we are not says:

        Perhaspe to some it may very well be. Please forgive me. i didnt realize we were being graded on our comments. But thanks for indulging in such detail. I appreciate it. Your comment was very insightful. Stay tuned…….

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  9. Blind we are not says:

    For Levi’s to allow the corupt non profit to use little innocent nyia Pages’ violent demise to tug at the heart and soul of those there in the community who are already downtrodden, most without hope and with the highest percentage of children living in poverty in the pittsburgh region to gain favor is an insult. It’s nothing more than another part of this do-gooding, lennding a hand is hip tattic and shows just how low down and ruthless they would go to accoplish thier goals which is to enrich themselves at the expense of those who cant defend themselves. For Levis to allow someone or, maybe a few, to live off the fat of the land( tax free mind you) and throw the table scraps to those who are kept in the dark is irreprehensible.

    Pure deceit and evil at it’s core for all to see. Sure it may sound good on the surface( all the do-gooding and feel good lines) but in realitiy it’s a travesty. Now I say to you if Levis wants to be “responsible” as someone sugested, I would implore them to disassociate with the non-profit. In the procese maybe sugesting that they rename the center. Then I would suggest that, if they are truly commited to Braddock, PA and wants it to “Go fourth” they should develop a manufacturring plan there that would acually plant the seeds for true economic developent and growth. Not just creatting inncome(1,000,000,000 worth’s) for a select few through coruption but creatting jobs for those who could really use it. Maybe even those who are living off the GRANTS could apply as well!
    I would also say to Levis that there’s a ready made, sholvel ready, space available right dead smack in the cener of the town where they can build the plant or headquarters. The space that was abanded by UPMC.
    This do-gooding, lending a helping hand non profit mess is a growing epidimic throughout the country and you might want to check into your local towns non profits as well. Hold them accountable!!!!!

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  10. Anna Phillips says:

    “TheVoice” Really? Is this the voice of someone wearing Levi’s jeans too tight? You think someone would go through all of this just because they didn’t get a gig? Seems to me she’s been photographing and documenting the real Braddock for years, well before Levi’s decided to exploit… I mean “put money back into the community.” What do you really know about it anyway, Voicey? I’m curious, because you didn’t speak to the real issue here and I’d like to know your motive or at least read a more in depth argument. Otherwise, I’m not convinced to give any credibility to the whole attitude of “Yo, she’s a hater. Shout out to Levi’s, McDonald’s, Marlboro, Nike and Heineken son!”

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  11. Ken Henderson says:

    A powerful statement about corporate manipulation.
    I particularly liked the performance and its slow degradation of the ‘product’
    as metaphor for the exploitation of the community.

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  12. Joel Martin says:

    I understand now latoya ruby frazier
    very powerful, very moving, very inspirational

    keep it up and thankyou

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  13. GloriaT says:

    I admire activism and passion and am trying to avoid making a judgement, however – everyone locally knows how she wanted to be a part of the Levi’s campaign. I think her photographs are beautiful but this documentary seems really out of place.

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    • Blind we are not says:

      Now what would make one so vain, so insular, that he or she wouldn’t be able to make room for the facts? I would say maybe a person who was somehow benefiting from Lev’is or the corupt non profits so called do-gooding. Now if that’s the case I would imagine the documentary would seem out of place. But for those in the community that’s been educated and informed (about 80% of the towns population) it fits right into place.
      To dismiss means to judge and weather Ms. Frazier wanted to be a part of the add or not, the fact remains.The quality of life didn’t improve for not one single person in the town except those who are now living off the grants and so called do-gooding provided by Levi’s and other government agencies. That’s what’s importiant.

      Now just exaclly who “everyone locally” is I’m not sure but after visiting the town, I say it would have to be maybe someone who is squatting in the corupt non profits domatory/sect, someone who fell for a feel good line or perhaps no one at all. Furthermore it’s a well known fact “locally” that the corupt non profit, to cover its’ deceit, will unleash false, misleading cliams and rumors particularly to the less educated and downtroden in a effort to win their trust. Less not lose focus on what’s really important here.

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      • GloriaT says:

        Your attack is obviously very personal and my kind post became the victim of your wrath. Funnel that anger into something positive. Your health will thank you for it. Bless!

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  14. Blind we are not says:

    Your chocie of words are very interesting. “attack” “anger” “My kind post”.They would suggest that I was some how personaly incensed by your comment. Let me make it very clear. I was actually quite amused by it. I saw striaght through it. I can asure you my health is just fine.
    On the other hand, with that said, guilt is a state of mind that destroys love and creates suffering and unfortunately only you can change what ever it is that you or those who you dwell with or support, have done/or are doing, that would make you post such idiotic non-sense. If I didnt know any better i would have thought you were one of the writters of some the feel-good lines of deceit broadcasted by the corupt non profit.

    To suggest that I am the aggressor to gain sympathy sure seems like a familiar tactic. Sugar coding your comment with a few compliments when the core of it is a flat out “LIE” is just hilarious.
    On a more serious note. With the way things are going in this country at the monment I wouldnt want to be the person(s) caught exploiting or playing on the inteligentes of those who they cliam to be helping. Their health is who you should be concerned for. My goodness…. May God be with them.

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  15. Pingback: Long story short: next time, just invite LaToya Ruby Frazier instead of John Fetterman

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