Chris Donovan

The Cloud Factory


As a child, I looked up at the billowing smoke stacks of the refinery and asked my father if they made all of the world’s clouds. “No,” he replied. “They make money.” I grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick – an industrial city on the east coast of Canada – bookended by Canada’s largest oil refinery and a pulp mill owned by the same billionaire family. Despite the enormous wealth controlled by the Irving family, we also have the highest rate of child poverty in Canada, at around 50%. This billionaire family also owns every newspaper in the province. The Cloud Factory project is my way of fighting against censorship and addressing the environmental and social implications of industrial classism on my community.



Jacques Poitras, author of Irving vs Irving, says of the Irving control of the media: “Newspapers are a historical record of our time. The concern with the Irving papers is not what is being written about, but what is being left out.” The goal of project is to fill in some of these blanks. For residents of the Bayside neighborhood, adjacent to the refinery, it feels like a lot is being left out. Resident Lisa Jacquart says her non-smoking neighbors are “dropping like flies” of lung cancer. With no studies on the air quality in this specific neighborhood, it’s impossible to hold the company accountable for these issues. Canada is now at a crossroads. A proposal to create the country’s longest-ever pipeline, which would transport oil to the refinery in Saint John, is currently on hold. As we get closer to electing a conservative Prime Minister in the Fall, that is expected to change. This is a complicated story of a town that relies on a damaging industry for survival. It must be approached with nuance and collaboration. As a Saint Johner, this is my story, and I hope you can help me tell it. Thank you for your consideration.




Short Bio

Chris Donovan (b. 1995) is a visual storyteller based in Toronto, Canada. Hailing from a small industrial city on Canada’s east coast, most of his work focuses on the interplay between industry and community. Chris’ work has been recognized by POYi, the Sony World Photo Awards, and the Canadian Pictures of the Year – including being named Photojournalist of the Year in 2017 and 2018. Hi clients include The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s Magazine, Reuters and others.


Related Links




The Fujifilm/Young Talent Award is supported by Fujifilm