Thilde Jensen: Canaries

As I walk into Light Work today it is almost exactly a year since, for the first time, I was able to enter this or any building not wearing my respirator. For seven years before that, my life was restricted by my body and brain’s sudden inability to process the vast amounts of chemicals floating in the air surrounding us. A year into my struggle with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities I started documenting my own life and the lives of others with similar stories. My first contact with Light Work was in 2006 when I received the Light Work Grant based on some of these pictures. At the time I was living in a tent in the woods just starting to build a safe house. During the following years the house project took priority and it wasn’t until spring of 2010 that I again came into contact with Light Work. During a meeting with Jeffrey Hoone it was decided to work towards a future exhibition of the Canaries series. With the help of the intern program, and under the guidance of digital lab manager John Mannion, we started digitizing most of my negatives. For me this was a terrifying moment—I had lived in total avoidance of computers for six years due to the often severe pain following exposure to their emissions, and here I was working in a digital lab like a dinosaur misplaced in the future. Needless to say it was a slow and difficult process culminating not only with the creation of a powerful exhibition, but also with my return to life as a “normal,” unmasked being. Without the support of Light Work the Canaries series would never have made it as far as the New York Times, reaching millions of people with a story both personal and timely. Thank you Light Work.

Thilde Jensen

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