With the 2016 presidential election and President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Cuba hogging headlines, the Flint water crisis hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. However, for citizens of this Michigan city, the lead-poisoned water is an inescapable fact of life. The same water they drank, bathed in, and cooked with became hazardous to their health.
On April 25, 2014, Flint shut off Detroit’s water supply and replaced it with water from the Flint River in a cost-saving move. Despite the high levels of lead, it took Flint more than a year to declare a state of emergency.
As the city struggles, photojournalist Ryan Garza documents their everyday hardships with his camera. The Flint-born photographer started chronicling his hometown in January 2015.
“From the moment I heard we were switching to using the Flint River as a drinking source, I knew we were in trouble,” he told Instagram. “Growing up in Flint, we knew to never get into the Flint River or eat fish from it. When the water levels were low, vehicles, shopping carts and other objects were visible. I was there when Flint officials sampled ‘treated’ river water as it was being considered as a safe source for residents. They offered me a drink. I declined. But later, there was no declining the water.”
His photographs follow the evolution of the Flint water crisis, but mostly, they give a voice to the people. With each Instagram post, Garza gives Flint citizens a much-needed outlet to tell their own personal stories. Check out a small collection of his images below: