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 wasnít 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.
ďMy images counter the negative perception people have of Englewood. Itís important to remember that the majority of Englewood is made up of families who go to work and youth that go to school. Thatís the Englewood that most of us know to be the truth. Itís not a crime-infested place that has no hope or no community at all.
Tonikaís 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 insiderís perspective. ďI 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.Ē
Her award-winning photography has been exhibited throughout Chicago and has traveled as far as Paris. And itís now also being featured on billboards across Englewood as part of the communityís rebranding campaign.
ďI want to inspire people to do something, to make changes for the better,Ē she says. ďArt is so important in moving social issues forward. It can move in spaces that activists and agendas canít. When people encounter art, it can help them engage in an issue or topic in a way that a rally or a community meeting canít. Itís a different kind of space.Ē
This is #EnglewoodRising.