Monocular Photographs

Hanna Sheehan

Hanna Sheehan writes:

“My name is Hanna Sheehan. I’m a legally blind and chronically ill artist, writer and archivist based in New York City. I primarily work with photographic media, printmaking and mixed media. 

I am legally blind and use a variety of access tools – glasses, lenses and magnifiers – to engage with the world around me. These tools enhance and mediate my understanding of the visual world. When I first began using these tools as a child I felt isolated by what I saw as dependence on this technology. For many years I resisted, fearing being ridiculed, misunderstood or worse, being deemed “not disabled enough” to use these tools that I desperately need. 

During my junior year of university at SUNY Purchase, where I studied Visual Art, sociology and art history, I began to use my access tools to take photos.. I took selfies with my CCTV reader, which I use to read, and placed various glasses and lenses over my iPhone. I began experimenting with my monocular to see if I could document how I experience scale, proximity and clarity in visual forms. This resulted in an ongoing series in which I use various objects (my monocular, kaleidoscopes and even my monocular pointed at an electron microscope) to play with distance, framing, selection, and texture. This process became just as ritual as using my monocular to see. In fact, it made doing so easier, as I now had a way to both celebrate its use and use it as a creative and generative practice. The photos included in this show were taken with my monocular and iPhone. 

My goal for this series is to challenge viewers to question their own use of everyday objects, object based knowledge and subsequently their baseline assumptions of ability and the world around them. My monocular, an essential access tool I use everyday, is manufactured and marketed to able-presumed folks as a hunting tool. Instead, I use mine to navigate on my way to work, read menus, look at signs, anjoy beautiful vistas, etc. The repetitive motion of lifting it to my eye and squinting feels automatic. Whenever I see something visually striking, at a long distance, and inaccessible without the use of my monocular, I feel compelled to photograph it, making it a ritual and ceremonial exploration of an everyday disabled experience. 

To the viewer I ask: How do we all engage with the world, mediated by the everyday objects we take for granted? What objects can be made for blind and visually impaired individuals that may help able-bodied and sighted folks engage with space to a heightened degree?”


Image of a Monocular

My monocular, the one I was given as a child in the 90’s, lays on the self-healing mat I had in my dorm room in undergrad. It’s the oldest monocular I own and doesn’t work anymore. I keep it out of nostalgia. I’ve dropped it many times, which is visible in its dents. It’s missing the rubber guard that protects your eye when you use it. This object feels like another limb, a hand, fingers. Holding It feels like holding the hand of my 7 year old self.

Written Image Description:

A metal monocular lays placed on a self-healing mat. The guide-lines of the mat are at an angle and so is the monocular, creating a diagonal feel to the image. The monocular appears to be old and is dented in some places.


Untitled

2017. Hudson River Park, New York, NY. Digital image taken on an iPhone 6, shot through monocular

Written Image Description:

A square image, a circle in the center. Blackness fills the space surrounding the circle’s perimeter. Within the circle, a dark silhouette of a tree appears before a pink sky — appearing to be sunset. There’s a burst of light that appears from the center of the circle, possibly created by light thrown from the lens the image was created with.


Untitled

2017. Hudson River Park, New York, NY. Digital image taken on an iPhone 6, shot through monocular.

Written Image Description:

A square image, a circle in the center. Blackness fills the space surrounding the circle’s perimeter. Within the circle a building appears in front of a yellow, cyan and orange sky. The building’s windows reflect these colors, though the building appears to be a yellowish gray from the light. The building fills most of the circular plane, leaving a small sliver on the right-hand side and a larger one on the left. The visible sky on the left is striped with colorful clouds and light.


Untitled

2017. Hudson River Park, New York, NY. Digital image taken on an iPhone 6, shot through monocular.

Written Image Description:

A square image, a circle in the center. Blackness fills the space surrounding the circle’s perimeter. The top corner of a skyscraper just out and upward from the left-hand side of the circular plane. A construction crane spikes out from the top of the building and some windows are illuminated on the floors below.


Untitled

2017. Hudson River Park, New York, NY. Digital image taken on an iPhone 6, shot through monocular.

Written Image Description:

A square image, a circle in the center. Blackness fills the space surrounding the circle’s perimeter. Within the circle a bright pink sky dominates the frame. The sky is striped with purple and orange. A streak of blue peaks out of the bottom of the circular plane. On the left hand side a building slightly enters the frame, creating a jagged shape. The building is purplish gray.


Untitled

2019. Purchase, New York, NY. Digital image taken on an iPhone 6, shot through monocular.

Written Image Description:

A rectangular image, a circle in the center. Blackness fills the space surrounding the rectangle’s perimeter. A blurry field emerges from the bottom left side of the circle and fades to black. A bright white circle creates the circular plane. In the circle, an arrangement of smaller light gray circles glow in clusters. There is a stripey gray texture around them, almost like ridges.


Untitled

2019. Purchase, New York, NY. Digital image taken on an iPhone 6, shot through monocular.

Written Image Description:

A rectangular image, a circle in the center. Blackness fills the space surrounding the rectangle’s perimeter. A blurry field emerges from the top center of the circle and fades to black. A bright white circle creates the circular plane. In the circle, an arrangement of smaller light gray circles glow in one big cluster. The cluster emerges from the blackness of the rest of the field. A white circle engulfs them with some room between it and the cluster.


Hanna Sheehan’s Instagram: @hanna.sheehan

Hanna Sheehan’s Website: https://hannasheehan.com/

Hanna Sheehan’s Network Connector/Creative Users Profile: https://creativeusers.net/network-connector/89/hanna-sheehan

Hanna Sheehan’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hanna-sheehan-66204718b/