A thorn in my side (eye)

A "simple" photograph without a thorn, at least for my side (eye). This photograph was taken in 1995 on slide film with a manual focus camera. I photographed these buildings in San Francisco during my first trip to the US ever. Although the weather was foggy before and after, we had two beautiful and sunny days in San Francisco and the sky was dark blue (also due to the polarizer).

This text is about thorns in my side and how I avoid them. In German, something that really annoys somebody is "a thorn in your eye", but if I am correct, the english version of this expression is a thorn in your side. Isn't it interesting? Why is it the side in English while in German the eye is the sensible part? For once (at least with respect to photography) the German expression is more appropriate.
Even as a young child, small details could seriously disturb me. For example, I vividly remember a moment when my brothers, parents and I were watching the news. My problem was a recalcitrant bunch of hair that escaped the order of the otherwise perfectly tailored hairstyle of the speaker. I found this so disturbing that I could hardly concentrate on the news. Also in other situations I can be bothered by details and it is the same with photographs: tiny details can pull away my sight from the main subject like a powerful magnet and completely bungle my viewing experience. 
What is the solution? For me, it is identifying and avoiding potential thorns; both in life and in photography. This may sound strange - almost as if I was not deciding what to photograph, but rather what not to photograph. I do of course take a positive decision about what to photograph as  well, but the statement still makes perfect sense for me. I strongly believe that beauty and beautiful subjects can be found almost anywhere. Whether or not you discover them depends largely on your attitude. However, viewing a photograph displaying even the most beautiful subject can be an enervating experience if thorns disturb my eye (or brain).
So what are the thorns in a photograph? I can only speak for myself. If I look at a photograph, my eye wanders across the image and will, hopefully, come to a rest on the main subject. A thorn is like a magnet that attracts the eye, that pulls the eye away from the main subject, that forces the eye to look at it again and again, even though it is not the main subject. If I look at a photograph with a thorn, my eye does not rest and is not at ease but constantly jumps around, which is what makes me nervous eventually. You can experience this yourself: try to consciously perceive the movement of your eye across an image. Is your eye at ease or constantly bopping around? Does the movement of your eye determine whether you like looking at a photograph? For me, how my eye is guided through a photograph and where it rests in the image largely determines my viewing experience.

Have a nice sunday!

P.S. One example of thorns, at least for some people, are watermarks. I am completely aware and can even understand if you should belong to those people who detest these markings. Nevertheless, at least for the time being, I still prefer to "sign" my photographs with a watermark. I hope that you respect that decision as I respect your attitude - maybe sometime in the future I will change.

2011/11/06 by Florian Freimoser
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