Tonika Johnson first started photographing Englewood as a creative outlet, a natural way to document the neighborhood she grew up in, works in, and continues to call home. It wasn’t until she started sharing her work with friends that she realized the images she was capturing were in direct opposition to the Englewood being portrayed on the news.
“My images counter the negative perception people have of Englewood. It’s important to remember that the majority of Englewood is made up of families who go to work and youth that go to school. That’s the Englewood that most of us know to be the truth. It’s not a crime-infested place that has no hope or no community at all.
Tonika’s inspiring photography highlights the many candid, positive moments happening in Englewood and aims to show those outside the community beautiful images of happiness and normalcy from an insider’s perspective. “I want to make this community and its residents feel beautiful. I want my work to be a source of encouragement and empowerment. I want to use my art as activism to dismantle these negative perceptions of Englewood.”
Her award-winning photography has been exhibited throughout Chicago and has traveled as far as Paris. And it’s now also being featured on billboards across Englewood as part of the community’s rebranding campaign.
“I want to inspire people to do something, to make changes for the better,” she says. “Art is so important in moving social issues forward. It can move in spaces that activists and agendas can’t. When people encounter art, it can help them engage in an issue or topic in a way that a rally or a community meeting can’t. It’s a different kind of space.”
This is #EnglewoodRising.