{ of(f) focus }


Off focus translates to “out-of-focus”, when you cannot see the image clearly or when a camera, telescope, or other instrument is out-of-focus; while of(f) focus refers to “in focus” aiming to reverse this process by sharpening the image plane from blurry to clear.[1]

Growing up by the Baltic Sea comes with an inhabited sensorial skill set and a desire to swim under the water with one’s eyes open, which is possible due to a very low salinity level. As I grew older, my eyesight became worse. For several decades, as I wore contact lenses, I couldn’t open my eyes under the water – otherwise the lenses would have just detached from the eyes’ surface – leaving my sight blurry and my body disorientated. Recently, my sight was recovered after a successful eye operation, and I am once again deriving from that childhood joy: opening my eyes in the depths of the sea bed.

This short autoethnographic story aligns with the time period of the past thirty some years, since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Multiple places, including Paldiski, had been turned into sites for colonial power exercised via establishment of military infrastructure at the expense of damaged ecologies, both human and non-human. Thus, there is a wound (of healing) that has made following generations turn their gaze elsewhere.

The concept “of(f) focus” aims to redraw one’s sight, and asks: how might one unlearn this inhabited behaviour of the “off focus”, inherited from previous generations, to instead be “of focus” towards sites appearing as evidence of committed violence?


[1] “Definition of ‘out of focus’”, Collins Dictionary, accessed March 17, 2023, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/out-of-focus


Ann Mirjam Vaikla