A photo exhibit focusing on the impact of emissions from the Northern Pulp mill is opening at the DeCoste Centre in Pictou, N.S. Tuesday evening.

The exhibit – Clean Air, A Basic Right – is a collection of 28 photos taken by local artists, depicting what the mill looks like during regular operation.

“People respond differently, emotionally, and we happen to respond through the lens,” says exhibit coordinator Dr. Gerry Farrell.

Residents have become increasingly concerned about the emissions from the stacks at the mill in Abercrombie Point.

Tests conducted last year showed the mill was producing emissions that were 78 per cent above legal limits, but the company says there has been a 25 per cent improvement in particulate levels since then.

Last month, The Nova Scotia government issued a compliance order giving Northern Pulp a deadline of May 30 to get its air quality emissions in line, or be forced to shut down.

Northern Pulp insists things will improve when new equipment arrives next spring, but some residents say they are tired of the poor air quality in their town.

Organizers say the exhibit aims to raise awareness of the impact pulp mill emissions have on daily life in Pictou County.

The collection includes composite pictures and others that use artistic impression to make their point.

Jon Raven Visser’s photos show people wearing gas masks, something he says could be a reality someday, if the mill doesn’t reduce its emissions.

“Hopefully through a visual, like pow to your eyes, it will wake up people that don’t necessarily know about the issue and maybe bring forward more support because that’s what we need,” says Visser.

After a summer filled with protests outside the mill, photographer Jonathan Beadle says he would rather make his point through pictures.

“This is probably one of the more tasteful ways to get around showing what Boat Harbour and the mill at Abercrombie Point is about,” says Beadle.

The mill almost looks like a piece of art in some of the photos, but organizers say it’s important to look beyond that.

“When you look at them just as pictures, sure, they come out very nice,” says Farrell. “But when you look at what’s going on in the picture, you get a different message.”

Farrell says the photo exhibit will be on display for about a month.

Meanwhile, a scheduled maintenance shutdown at the mill is almost complete. It is expected the mill will go back into operation by the end of the week.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh