Canaries is a photographic document about Environmental Illness(EI) as a human cost to progress.
My goal is to complete the last segment of a years-long photographic documentation of the Human Canaries and then to self publish the project as a book in early 2013.
It is my hope that this photographic document Canaries will serve not only as a historic record but as a warning of a potentially very scary future if we continue down the same path of progress.
How your money will be spent:
The trip ($5000 or more if more is pledged)
To cover expenses of film, film development and gas to drive around the country to remote homes of people with EI, in order to complete the Canaries series.
Most of the project is shot on medium format film which makes for very high qaulity reproductions and beautiful large scale exhibition prints.
The book ($5000 or more if more is pledged)
The book is to be self published it will be approximately 11 x 10 inches.
90 pages with 70 - 80 color images and text and a first edition of 1000 copies.
About this project
The Canaries series comes out of a personal encounter with a hypersensitive dimension of reality, invisible to most.
Since World War II the production and use of synthetic petroleum-derived chemicals has exploded. We live in a world today where man-made chemicals are part of every breath we take and where electro magnetic emissions are beaming at us from every corner.
As a result it is believed that more than ten million Americans have developed a disabling condition referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) or Environmental Illness (EI).
EI is a condition in which the immune and central nervous systems go into extreme reactions when exposed to small amounts of daily chemicals like perfume, cleaning products, car exhaust, printed matter, construction materials and pesticides.
When the delicate balance of life first has been broken there seems no end to how sensitive we can become or to which element one might sensitize. In addition to chemicals some react to food, electromagnetic fields, molds, textiles and even light - making life a near impossibility.
A life with Environmental Illness often comes with a long trail of loss. Marriages fall apart, friends and family pull away. The person suffering is often forced to leave their home in search of safe chemically-free housing and clean air.
Many people with EI end up living as refugees in remote areas out of tents, cars, or retro-fitted trailers, away from dangers of neighbors' chemical use. Others are prisoners of their homes, with advanced air filter systems to keep outside air from contaminating their breathing space.
In 2003 a sudden development of severe Environmental Illness cut short my emerging career as a documentary and editorial photographer and life as I knew it. I had to flee my home in NYC as my immune system was crashing, forcing me unto a survivalistic journey, unravelling the comfort and construct of my previous life.
The ensuing years were a lesson in basic survival - camping in the woods, while wearing a respirator when entering supermarkets, doctors' offices, and banks. To my surprise an otherwise invisible subculture of people who shared this isolated existence began to emerge.
In 2004 I started the Canaries series which is a personal account about Environmental Illness, documenting life on the edge of modern civilization - as one of the human canaries, the first casualties of a ubiquitous synthetic chemical culture.
Through a recent experimental neural retraining program based on advances in stroke rehabilitation, I am again able to function in the "real world" without a respirator. I have often wished and prayed these last 8 years that I would one day be able to tell this story with the knowledge of an insider but without the restriction of illness. I am now at that point.
In Spring of 2011 I travelled back to the desert of the Southwest, to continue the Canaries project where many with Environmental Illness live as refugees from a chemical and electrical world they no longer can inhabit.
As a Photographer I strive to create images that tell the story yet at the same time are intriguing, intimate and beautiful, in a way that gives the outsider a way the enter into an otherwise rather sad and scary story. This is what I see as my role as an artist to create interest and a way of entry into another world, a world one might not otherwise want to enter.
If you or someone you know suffer from Environmental Illness and want to be part of the Canaries series please email a brief description of your situation and location to Thildejensen@yahoo.com
I sincerely thank you for your interest and support - Thilde Jensen
A special thanks to Light Work for their continued support.
The Canaries have been shown at Light Work Gallery, Syracuse, NY in Spring of 2011.
The Post Standard, Syracuse ran a large story April 2011
The Canaries was featured in the New York Times in September 2011 and the Observer (UK) in October 2011.
The Canaries will be shown at The Center for Photography at Woodstock in March 2012 and be part of the TONY biannual in September, Syracuse 2012.
To see more images from the Canaries series please visit Thildejensen.com
Link to the New York Times slide show of the Canaries September 2011:
ID Magazine, Cover story in Anniversary issue 2004
Contact Sheet, Annual issue 2006 and 2011, Text, "The Canary in the Cage" by Light Work Director Jeffrey Hoone
- (32 days)