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Downing Pryor Distinguished Visiting Lecturer: LaToya Ruby Frazier

April 18, 2017 @ 6:00 pm8:00 pm


Downing Pryor LaToya Ruby Frazier

MCA’s 2017 Downing Pryor Distinguished Visiting Lecturer is LaToya Ruby Frazier, an internationally recognized photographer and a 2015 MacArthur Fellow. Frazier works in photography, video and performance to build visual archives that address industrialism, rustbelt revitalization, environmental justice, healthcare inequity, family and communal history. Frazier received the International Center for Photography Infinity Award in 2015 for her book The Notion of Family (Aperture 2014). Frazier has exhibited widely around the United States and internationally at venues including the Brooklyn Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts, the Whitney Museum of Art in New York, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Frazier’s lecture is titled Art as Transformation: Using Photography for Social Change. Below is an excerpt describing the subject matter that Frazier will discuss during her lecture:
Each day, we’re bombarded by images: on billboards, on screens, in schools and in our bedrooms. And these images, largely corporate in origin, carry power—power to shape, control, and constrain—even when they offer a fantasy, or an outright lie.

That’s why, as LaToya Ruby Frazier argues, photography is a battleground of representation. We cannot control the material circumstances of our birth, our families or our economic circumstances. But in order to change society—to seed real change and cultural transformation, especially for the marginalized and the forgotten—we must change the picture we have of ourselves and our communities.

In this talk, Frazier discusses how she has used photography to fight injustice—poverty, healthcare and gender inequality, environmental contamination, racism, and more—and create a more representative self-portrait. Drawing from her book ‘The Notion of Family,’ as well as from works of art by Frederick Douglass, August Sander, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Langston Hughes, Frazier relates her conscious approach to photography; opens up more authentic ways to talk about family, inheritance, and place; and celebrates the inspirational, transformative power of images.


Memphis College of Art will host a reception and book signing in the Main Gallery starting at 6 p.m., with the lecture to follow at 7 p.m.

Photo: Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation


About the Downing Pryor Distinguished Visiting Lecturer Series: 
The Downing Pryor Distinguished Visiting Lecturers Series was created to honor the late Downing Pryor and support the mission of Memphis College of Art. Downing Pryor devoted 32 years as a member of MCA’s board of trustees, serving three times as its chairman (1961, 1967 and 1972). Mr. Pryor, born into the automobile business, was heavily involved in Memphis politics, serving as a member of the Shelby County Quarterly Court (now the County Commission) from 1964 to 1968 and the first city council from 1968 to 1972. In 1968, Pryor was the main mediator between the city and striking sanitation workers and, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he represented the city at Dr. King’s funeral services in Atlanta. He was recognized for his outstanding service as a civic leader, businessman and patron of the arts along with his contributions in the areas of education and race relations.
Downing Pryor saw the arts in a very special light, writing, “Each adventure with art adds depth and breadth to the mind and heart that enable the individual to go on to the next experience with heightened perception and understanding.” Friends and family members endowed the lecture series as an ongoing reminder of what one truly honorable man can accomplish in his lifetime and beyond. Downing Pryor died in January 1990. The college welcomes contributions to the endowment fund, which makes this prestigious lecture series possible. To make a gift to this Downing Pryor Distinguished Visiting Lecturers Series, please visit or call 901-272-5115.


April 18, 2017
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
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Memphis College of Art


Rust Hall – Callicott Auditorium

1930 Poplar Avenue



United States

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Memphis College of Art does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran status, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or other status protected by law. Additional Information