Thilde Jensen didn’t know it when she first got sick, but she was suffering from what many people call Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), or more broadly Environmental Illness (EI). Neither MCS nor EI exist in the International Classification of Diseases or ICD, and neither has an official diagnosis, but they are now commonly used to refer to people who, like Jensen, have a heightened sensitivity to synthetic chemicals and/or other things such as food and electromagnetic waves.
In Syracuse, Jensen began making self-portraits. She soon met other people who were also suffering from EI, including her neighbor Anna. Because it can be brutally cold in upstate New York, Jensen spent her winters in Arizona, just outside of Tucson, where she met and started documenting an entire community of people who were living in the desert away from the same kinds of triggers that had made her sick. The photo project is titled Canaries because Jensen believes her and her fellow EI sufferers are an early warning sign for our industrial society as a whole.
“I needed something to keep my sanity within this experience,” she says.
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[Photo: Thilde Jensen]