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‘She was passing through town and shouted at us from across the road’

Photographer Marie LeBlanc suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, a little-known but complex chronic condition affecting about three per cent of Canadians. Her work is on display now at or near Habitat for the Arts. | Supplied photos

Fuchsia Dragon | reporter@Fitzhugh.ca

Exposure to everyday chemicals can make photographer Marie LeBlanc sick.

Even the tiniest amount of perfume, hairspray or pesticide in the air can trigger symptoms like burning eyes, headaches and skin rashes.

But the artist said fresh, clean air eases her daily struggle, and when she breathed Jasper’s “pristine” air was inspired to share her message.

LeBlanc suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, a little-known but complex chronic condition affecting about three per cent of Canadians.

She said: “Fresh air is good for everyone but for people like us it’s what we are struggling for. We are searching for clean air and the air here, wow.

“It’s less pain, my head is clearer. When you’re in a building overexposed to certain things it affects your pain level and the way you think. In fresh air it’s a little bit better.

“I wanted to go to Jasper because the air is so much better there. When I go outside it’s like wow, the air is so good.”

LeBlanc, who lives outside Edmonton, has photographs on display at the entrance to Jasper’s Habitat for the Arts.

Her art focuses on environmental illnesses and sensitivities, and toxic environments.

She said: “I’m doing art and doing training and awareness.

“Through my photography I have different photos that express how I am feeling in that time – photos that express what it’s like with multiple chemical sensitivity.”

LeBlanc met Marianne Garrah, director at Habitat, last summer.

Garrah said: “She was passing through town and shouted at us from across the road, she couldn’t come inside the building – so that was intriguing enough.

“We started talking and she said she was raising awareness for her cause and left some photographs with us. She’s telling a story through her photographs.”

LeBlanc hopes to bring the other strand of her creativity to the town, too.

She has projected quotes from others suffering with environmental illnesses onto buildings in Manitoba, including the Nuit Blanche in Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Concert Hall.

She said: “I would like to project ‘WHO says we need fresh air?!’ in Jasper and take it across Canada.

“As I’m doing this I’m looking at others with multiple chemical sensitivity who are struggling, and I think I can do something about this.

“I’m in the same spot but this fresh air project is helping me through.

“Many people in Canada living with these conditions are seeking refuge and looking for pristine places such as Jasper. For them it is important to their survival just to have clean air to breathe.”

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