Folded Map Project’s Tonika Johnson Confronts Alec Soth and the NY Times

On September 5, 2020, The New York Times published “The Great Divide” – the latest entry in their “The America We Need” Times Opinion series – which examined neighborhoods on Chicago’s North Side and South Side and the enormous disparities in wealth and health that have emerged between them as a result of racist policies like redlining that began in the early 20th century.
The NYT hired Magnum Photos’ Alec Soth, a well-known and highly regarded photographer to travel from his home in Minnesota for a three day assignment in Chicago. Unbeknownst to him and the NYT editors, photographer and activist Tonika Johnson – a trained journalist/photographer with an MBA – had spent years documenting the exact same disparity in the same neighborhoods for her Folded Map Project.
Social media criticism led to Soth apologizing, saying, “Her work is an example of long-term committed work that is precisely what the world needs right now. What it doesn’t need is photographers parachuting into complex situations.” Soth further donated his assignment fee of $1500 to The Folded Map.
In her public response to Soth, she wrote, “I would never accept a job to document segregation in another location WITHOUT researching to find related work about and/ …
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