Photographer Shows the Hidden Paths of Pesticides


(Beyond Pesticides, December 5, 2005)

Photographer Laurie Tmer’s work offers a snapshot of the ubiquitous presence of pesticides. Ms. Tmer has been making images that expose the presence of synthetic pesticides since 1998, when she suffered near-fatal poisoning after her New Mexico home was sprayed. While recovering, Ms. Tmer discovered the work of Richard Fenske, Ph.D., a professor of environmental health at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine. Dr. Fenske uses fluorescent tracer dyes and ultraviolet light to demonstrate how pesticides can spread to agricultural workers’ skin, even when protective gear is worn.

By spraying tracers on her shoes and walking through her garden, or superimposing dyes onto landscape-scale canvases, Ms. Tmer uses a similar technique to illustrate how and where pesticides travel. The result of her work, a growing collection she calls “Glowing Evidence,” is at once startling and stunning — she compares the patterns in it to constellations. Critics who’ve seen her images exhibited in Santa Fe have called them eerie, compelling, ingenious, and haunting.

Ms. Tmer’s 25-year photographic career, including a current collaboration with a blind poet, has focused on “seeing the invisible,” and was featured in a 2003 documentary of that name. But as work like hers becomes more visible, she says so-called political art is really nothing new. In fact, she traces her work to cave drawings. Like that ancient art form, Ms. Tmer says, her photographs are a forum for processing information, conveying dismay, and warning others.

Laurie Tmer’s photographs are available at

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