Who gets to tell our communities’ stories?

Folks miss a lot about Chicago’s varied communities, if they only drive by or only believe what mainstream media chooses to reveal. Give it some time and both expected and unexpected, usual and unique images and stories come to light.

Tonika Johnson

That was just one of the points made during a presentation and conversation led by Englewood-based photographer Tonika Johnson about overcoming neighborhood stigmas and defining what we mean when we talk about “narrative shifting” in Chicago at City Bureau’s Public Newsroom #17 at Build Coffee on Thursday, May 11, 2017.

Similar to what PICTURE THIS Projects’ “kids” had done while making pictures in their neighborhoods years ago, Tonika’s ongoing photography project, “From the INside,” seeks to challenge negative perceptions of Englewood by creating images of vibrancy, normalcy and everyday life from her “insider” perspective.

All of the close to 40 people took turns sharing their perspectives, asking and answering questions and listened with great interest. The vibe in the room was passionate, encouraging and kind. Hopefully my pictures below reflect that.

The next gathering, Public Newroom #18, will feature Timuel Black and the art of oral history. If you’re not a south sider, here’s your reason to venture out. I think you’ll leave feeling more ambitious and a little smarter than when you’d walked in.


Karen Kring, photographer, journalist, constantly curious