In order to document the health—past and present—of the River Valley, Kerri Arsenault created the Cancer Yearbook, an online photographic record that mimics a high school yearbook, however, this yearbook contains details of another kind: testimony from people who have lived or live currently in the River Valley and suspect (or know for certain) their diseases are or were related to the mill’s toxic releases. While studies have been done regarding the high cancer rates in the River Valley, nothing has been proven to date. In 2021, Arsenault will incorporate many more River Valley stories, and begin to include similar stories from the entire state of Maine. This project—like cancer itself—has no foreseeable end.
This yearbook creates visual evidence—on a more human rather than scientific scale—that shows the connection between industry and illness. It puts faces to data, gives people a place to tell their stories, be seen, and see others who have suspected similar things. Sharing stories publicly is the key to this project, because if there are enough faces and stories populating this yearbook, the facts will be hard to ignore as they have been in the past. —Maine’s River Valley report editors