ENGLEWOOD — Chicago Magazine has named Englewood photographer Tonika Johnson one of its 2017 Chicagoans of The Year.
Through her lens, she has captured the everyday rituals in her community.
“I didn’t think that what I’ve known to be a primarily white, very middle to upper class supported magazine would recognize a black South Side photographer,” she said.
“This recognition really showed me that Englewood black artists really have some allies in a way that kind of reaches beyond what we as a community think,” Johnson said. “We know people are looking, we know we have some supporters, but to be recognized in this way made me feel a little more proud to be a Chicagoan.”
She has been practicing photography since high school in the mid-1990s. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2003.
In February, Johnson showcased “Everyday Rituals,” a project she did in collaboration with local painter Adrienne Powers.
Before that, she introduced her body of work entitled “From the INside.” It was featured at the Englewood Art Fair in Hamilton Park. Her goal, she said, was to capture Englewood residents in their natural element. She snapped photos of people in private moments like walking down the street, sitting on a park bench or getting their hair done. It wasn’t intrusive because, as a resident, she was already “inside,” she said.
[Photo courtesy of Tonika Johnson]
[Photo Courtesy of Tonika Johnson]
There was a void that needed to be filled, Johnson said, so she started the project.
“We haven’t seen images of ourselves like that in a while, artistically or documentary style,” she said.
“Staff photographers just got eliminated from publications and they were the ones, 15-20 years ago, who really documented a lot of the community,” Johnson said. “Once that ended, it was really just kind of a void in community photography.”
The nomination meant so much more than just the recognition of her work, she said.
“I understand why the community was connected to it, but I didn’t really think it would resonate with all of Chicago in the way that it did,” she said. The nomination “really showed me that it’s beyond Englewood and really does embody the representation of Chicago.”
Johnson said she’s working with Loyola University and plans to unveil a new exhibit entitled “Folded Map,” which is “a unique illustration of segregation in Chicago and how it affects what or how we make generalizations of people.”
The project will be showcased in fall of 2018.
Also, in February, she will hold an exhibit at the Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 Michigan Ave. This one will combine images from her previous two projects.
Check out her website at www.tonijphotography.com.