The Visible Edge of an Invisible Trauma

Thilde Jensen’s exhibition, ‘The Visible Edge of an Invisible Trauma’, shown over at The Great Leap Sideways, is a remarkable collection of work. With tremendous photographic skill, her subjects are portrayed with a starkness and honesty that’s almost too raw to take in.

Perhaps the room coated in foil is as familiar to you as it is to me?

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The visible edge of an invisible trauma ~ Thilde Jensen

Thankfully, nowadays, I live in a home where only the floor is covered in foil. And, our plans for building a non-toxic home have just been submitted to town planning, so it won’t be long until I have a home with actual tiles on the floor. And, I say this with joy in my heart: hopefully, the only foil will be the in the kitchen drawer, and the insulation building wrap! (No more dog ripping the foil on the floors; no more taping it up with more foil and masking tape.) However, many people are not so lucky; and it’s work like Jensen’s (and all the great blogs, sites and forums out there) that shine a light on this topic.

Thilde Jensen’s The Canaries is a book characterised by sudden and visceral alienation. Her pictures are charged by an unintelligible intensity, full of improbable recalcitrance, monastic seclusion, and a sense of fear and disequilibrium that resides at some subcutaneous level.

Her photographs render, in unflinching detail, the profound measures undertaken by those who suffer from the grievous sensitivity to a wide array of chemicals. Thus the literal subject of each picture is always itself invisible, since the affliction her pictures describe occurs at some microscopic level. Moreover this invisible catalyst is so utterly pervasive and resilient, that our inability to confront it through her lens mirrors her subject’s vulnerability to an insistent and intangible threat.”

I cannot imagine living in my car; nor can I picture myself living in a tent. But I guess, these people never thought they’d end up doing those things either. I can only hope for change and understanding from people who refuse to change and understand how this is possible. It is. I live it. I know others who live it. Ergo, the photographic subjects in The Canaries are on the extreme end of the spectrum but they are a reminder to us all of what can happen without change. Our immune systems and the Earth’s ecosystem are inextricably linked; and it’s saddening that it takes illness and pollution for us to be reminded of that.

More from Jensen on this topic:

“It is my hope that this photographic document, The 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.”

About Thilde Jensen

“In 2003 a sudden development of severe Environmental Illness forced Thilde Jensen to leave her life in New York City. The ensuing years were a lesson in basic survival.

Retreating to the woods for sanctuary, Jensen would have to wear a respirator whenever she returned to civilization. To her surprise, an otherwise invisible subculture of people who shared this isolated existence began to emerge.

She later travelled the desert of the American Southwest, where many with Environmental Illness live as refugees from a chemical and electrical world they can no longer inhabit.

The Canaries is an intimate journey through a hypersensitive dimension of reality, where old cars, aluminum foil, masks and home-made phones become key necessities for survival. The book is an authentic photographic documentation of life on the edge of modern civilization, but reads almost as fiction set in the borderland between dream and nightmare.”

When I look at the woman wearing a mask while crouching down to put petrol in her car, I want to cry. For the last three years, I’ve had two people put petrol in for me. Now, there’s only one person left to do it; and we try to arrange it so I’m not in the car when it’s being filled up because I just get to ill from the fumes. If I had to do this for myself… I’d rather not think about it.

As and aside, while I’ve been away from MCS cyberland, I’ve found many more blogs and sites relating to MCS, chemical injury, mould illness, chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia have popped up. It’s great to see so many people speaking up for themselves and others. From my heart, I can tell you that this really matters; for when someone feels alone in this illness, it’s stoking awesome to realise we are not alone. Not alone at all.

You can buy The Canaries here

See the Sunday Review New York Times ‘Everything Makes them Sick’ slideshow

There is No Romance in Being a Canary”. Interview with Thilde Jensen on her widely nominated self-published photobook The Canaries


The Sensitives

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

About Michellina van Loder



Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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