I Knew This Was Powerful – Building Community through Photography: The B&H Photography Podcast


The title for this episode of the B&H Photography Podcast is taken from a comment made by guest Tonika Johnson, describing the moment she recognized the effect her work could have on citizens of her hometown of Chicago. I’m certain that our other guests have had a similar moment when they see that their artistic work has gone beyond just the oohs and ahhs of aesthetes and afficionados and truly helps to educate and change the world for the better.

On today’s program, we speak about photo projects that are used to address social problems and to bridge gaps between diverse people. In addition to Johnson, we welcome photographer John Noltner, the founder of A Peace of My Mind, and Michael Skoler, Communications Director at Weave: The Social Fabric Project.

From Skoler we learn of the founding of Weave by the Aspen Institute and its mission to enable “weavers” to create connections between varied people, to act as good neighbors, and to “heal” communities. A Peace of My Mind, which has collaborated with Weave, uses photography and portraiture to foster discussions on peace and its many interpretations. Through exhibitions, workshops, and even his new book, Noltner’s visual storytelling sparks conversation and, hopefully, brings new understandings on diversity and tolerance.

In the second half of the program, we focus on the work of Tonika Johnson and her Folded Map Project, which provides a unique method to compare historically segregated neighborhoods in Chicago and, ultimately, to bring the residents of these neighborhoods together. We speak with Johnson of her work as a photo teacher and activist and learn how this project had been gestating since her high school days. Join us for this inspirational conversation.

Guests: Michael Skoler, John Noltner, Tonika Johnson

Photograph © John Noltner

From “Folded Map Project” © Tonika L. Johnson
From “Folded Map Project” © Tonika L. Johnson
Southside, Englewood resident Nanette sitting with her “map twin” Wade, on his porch in Chicago’s northside neighborhood of Edgewater, from “Folded Map Project” © Tonika L. Johnson
“A Peace of My Mind” exhibit in Memphis, Tennessee, 2018 © John Noltner
Dan Gallagher, Veterans advocate, Missoula, MT. From “A Peace of My Mind,” 2015 © John Noltner
Hashim Garrett, activist, Orange, New Jersey. From “A Peace of My Mind,” 2016 © John Noltner
Tyrone Werts, Inside-Out Project, Philadephia, PA. From “A Peace of My Mind,” 2016 © John Noltner
Bud Welch, Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum, Oklahoma City, OK. From “A Peace of My Mind,” 2013 © John Noltner
Joanne Bland, Civil Rights Activist, Selma, Alabama. From “A Peace of My Mind,” 2014 © John Noltner

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Shawn C Steiner