Chicago photographer captures the reality and beauty of Englewood

FOX 32 NEWS - When people mention the community of Englewood, a certain visual often comes to mind.

But a young Chicago artist is trying to replace those images with what she says is reality.

Her photos document what she calls everyday life as it is lived in Englewood. She should know. Tonika Johnson grew up here.

She says the images that are all too often shown on TV don't fit the reality of the neighborhood she knows and loves.

"I really wanted to put the beauty of the everyday life in Englewood to the forefront to kind of challenge the negative perception that Englewood has,” Johnson said.

The pictures capture still life in parks, stores, sidewalks and more. Tonika says they are places people find themselves at every day, but sometimes forget to think about as beautiful.

And they are also images of a culture of black Chicago: children riding bikes, fathers spending time with their children. Images people who don't live in Englewood might never see and don't realize really do exists.

"I want to be able to show the humanity that exists. Not associated with crime and victimization to show people still live here and we have a culture here it's beautiful, it's thriving,” Johnson said.

Some of her work can now be seen in an upcoming exhibit at the root work gallery. It’s called "Everyday rituals Bridging the black secular and the divine."

Johnson said it started innocently enough. She was just a photographer taking pictures of her neighborhood. It wasn't until her friends told her the images through her lenses represented something different that she realized she needed to share them with the world.

"The most personal to me is the mother doing her daughters hair in the laundromat. To me that embodies the most intimate beautiful moment of every day rituals,” Johnson said.

Johnson is hoping her images shed new light on a community fraught with negative stereotypes by offering what she calls a more accurate and artistically beautiful reflection of life in the neighborhood she calls home.

The exhibit at the Rootwork Gallery will begin Friday night and runs until March 19th.

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