Frazier and artist Sandra Gould Ford honor working-class life

Pittsburgh City Paper
November 29, 2017
by Bill O’Driscoll

In 1977, while studying at the University of Pittsburgh, Sandra Gould Ford took the first of a series of clerical jobs at J&L Steel. That was five years before LaToya Ruby Frazier was born. But upon meeting, in 2015, the two women connected immediately: They were both African-American artists from Pittsburgh committed to honoring the often-forgotten experience of the working class.

The exhibit On the Making of Steel Genesis: Sandra Gould Ford, a collaboration on display at the August Wilson Center, offers a strikingly layered narrative: Acclaimed photographer Frazier tells the story of Gould, and how she told the story of Big Steel and its demise here.

Frazier is a Braddock native and MacArthur “genius-grant” winner who now splits time between Pittsburgh, New York and Chicago. Working with the Silver Eye Center for Photography (and a grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation), she spent this past August in Ford’s Homewood home and studio, poring over Ford’s remarkable (and previously unexhibited) archive of photographs she took and documents she saved at J&L’s South Side and Hazelwood plants. Ford worked for J&L until the plants were shuttered, in 1985. “They were throwing these documents away,” says Frazier. “She understood the cultural significance of it.” Together with Frazier’s own photographs of Ford, and of the former mill sites as they are today, the materials comprise Steel Genesis.

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Courtesy of: Pittsburgh City Paper