LaToya Ruby Frazier’s study of Flint’s water crisis

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This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine: Ones to Watch, available to buy at

The photographer’s multi-layered, five-year body of work finds a new home in book form

LaToya Ruby Frazier first travelled to Flint, Michigan, in 2016, commissioned by Elle to produce a photo essay about the city’s ongoing water crisis. The problems with Flint’s water had begun two years earlier, on 25 April 2014, when officials, including the then-Michigan governor Rick Snyder, oversaw the city’s water supply being switched to the contaminated Flint River. The move was devastating. Lead leached into the city’s water, affecting the health of those who used it. The scandal and its devastating effects on Flint’s residents, paired with the lack of mass-media coverage, drove Frazier on. What began as a single assignment became a five-year, multilayered body of work confronting the injustice, and a testament to photography’s ability to empower and enact visible change, as Frazier articulates in the publication’s foreword.

Three parts divide the series, hence its title Flint is Family in Three Acts. On Frazier’s initial visit to Flint, she encountered the poet, activist and mother Shea Cobb and her daughter, Zion. Their story – of Cobb wrestling for her family’s and community’s rights – threads through the images, grounding the otherwise intricate, expansive narrative. The project has been previously published and exhibited in various contexts. However, as a weighty hardback, these distinct chapters, accompanied by different texts, arguably inhabit their most apt form.

Flint is Family in Three Acts is published by Steidl