This Photographer Documented The Positive Impact Of A New Supermarket That Opened In A Food Desert

“In order for people to truly understand that Black lives matter, they have to see images of Black lives actually mattering.”

In 1970, the last supermarket on Syracuse’s South Side closed down. A new one wouldn’t open for decades, and the nearest grocery store was two miles away, which made it extremely difficult for the area’s residents to access healthy food. Photographer Michael Santiago was studying in Syracuse in 2017, around the same time the community learned that after five years of planning, a Price Rite supermarket would be built and would be hiring directly from that community, bringing 150 jobs to the area.

“I wanted to work on a project that showed there were people who loved their community and worked hard for it,” Santiago said. He covered this community for two years as a part of his final thesis for graduate school at S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.

Santiago was part of the staff at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for photographing the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue; he is now a staff photographer with Getty Images. “One of the things that I learned working at the newspaper was how to be a journalist, not just a photographer. I fell in love with working on news, traveling and covering national news and the most important topics,” he said.

We spoke with Michael about the project and his photographs of the Price Rite supermarket, racism, and why investment is important.

A man in a hoodie pushing a shopping cart talks to two Price Rite employees in the cookie aisle of a supermarket

Michael M. Santiago

A split image of two men in Price Rite aprons in the grocery store

Michael M. Santiago

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