March 10 – April 22, 2012
Since World War II the production and use of synthetic chemicals has exploded.
In the course of an average day, people come in contact with a host of chemicals. As a result of the prevalence of these synthetic chemicals, it is believed that more than ten million Americans have developed a disabling condition referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).
MCS is a condition in which our immune and central nervous system have extreme reactions when exposed to small amounts of daily chemicals like perfume, cleaning products, car exhaust, printed matter, construction materials and pesticides. In addition, some individuals affected by MCS react to light, fabrics, food and electromagnetic fields as emitted by computers, phones, cell towers, cars and florescent lights – making life a near impossibility.
Many people with MCS are forced to live in remote areas in tents, cars, or retro-fitted trailers, away from dangers of neighbors’ chemical use. Others are effectively prisoners of their own homes, with advanced air filter systems to keep outside contaminants at bay.
In 2003, the story of this condition became my story when a sudden development of severe MCS cut short my life and my career as a documentary and editorial photographer in New York City. I had to flee my home as my immune system crashed, forcing me into a survivalist journey which unraveled the comfort and construct of my previous life.
The ensuing years were a lesson in basic survival. I camped in the woods and wore a respirator when entering supermarkets, doctors’ offices, and banks. To my surprise, I was also introduced to an otherwise invisible subculture of people who shared this isolated existence.
My photographs are a personal account of life on the edge of modern civilization as one of the human “canaries”, the first casualties to an ubiquitous synthetic chemical culture.
– Thilde Jensen, 2012
Thilde Jensen (Truxton, NY) is from Arhus, Denmark, where she attended European Film College and K.U.B.A. School of Fine Art Photogarphy. After moving to New York, she attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her work has been exhibited at the Society of Contemporary Photography in Kansas City, the New Century Artist Gallery and The Back Room Gallery in New York City, and the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. A solo exhibition of “Canaries” was previously presented at Light Work in Syracuse in July, 2011. Jensen’s work has appeared in various publications including The Observer, Contact Sheet, The New York Times Sunday Review and Doubletake Magazine. Her editorial and journalistic work have appeared in Newsweek Magazine, Details Magazine, and Blender Magazine, among others. Jensen’s work is in the permanent collections of Light Work in Syracuse, NY and the Museet for Fotokunst in Odense, Denmark.