Hannah Cooper McCauley

A Singular Sense of Urgency

My father’s job as a Baptist minister afforded me an early understanding of faith as both a mysterious and steadfast component of my world. My adolescent life often seemed to be invaded by events similar to those I was taught in the Bible—too strange to believe, but real all the same. I befriended a surly armadillo on the construction property between the church and our parsonage home. I burst my head open on a church pew and left a sea of red in the lush carpet below, my father pausing mid sermon to carry my limp body out the front doors. I spent most of my formative years playing in and around church property, skinning my knees in the parking lot and exploring hidden crannies underneath the baptistry.

At 17, I experienced the strangest event of all, the beginning of which was not unlike a passage on miracles you would read about in the book of Matthew. I learned I have a hereditary, degenerative eye condition called optic nerve head drusen. My eyes are unable to dispose of waste properly, causing gradual visual field loss and sometimes blindness. Unlike a miracle, however, there was no one to rub mud in my eyes and make the ailment disappear.

This ongoing body of work is about coming of age—made in response to my radically shifting perception—and exists for me as an attempt to maintain lost innocence, both biological as it relates to my failing vision, but also the sort of erosion that occurs when transitioning from one state to another. I use the camera as a tool to measure the weight of the loss I am experiencing, and I am looking at the past—my family mythology and the nature of my Christian upbringing, to decipher my own identity. 

Hannah Cooper McCauley (b.1989, Tupelo, MS) received a BFA from Jacksonville State University in 2012 and is currently completing an MFA from Louisiana Tech University. She enjoys working in narrative photography, both digital and analogue, and her work investigates the curious nature of transition encapsulated within the genre of magical realism. Cooper McCauley’s work has been exhibited in group and solo shows at various venues internationally, including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Vermont Center for Photography, Photo Beijing 2014, and the 2014 Pingyao, China International Photography Festival. Hannah has been published in Photo District News as well as the Oxford American Magazine, and has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships from such institutions as the Society for Photographic Education and Louisiana Tech University. Most recently, she was named a finalist in Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50 competition, as well as a winner in the 2015 Lensculture Emerging Talent Awards. Cooper McCauley currently lives and teaches in Ruston, Louisiana with her husband Zachary, and their dog Albert, the world’s longest photo assistant.  

You can see more of her work at her website.