Last weekend in Cardiff saw the annual Photomarathon; an event in which unsuspecting members of the public look on confused, as competitors – with cameras around their necks, and bright orange wristbands – contort themselves and take to unusual perspectives in order to capture their interpretation of twelve topics. With 450 entrants this year, the chances are high that if you were in Cardiff you probably witnessed some of this yourself!
First introduced to Cardiff (and indeed the UK) in 2004, the Photomarathon event is now in its tenth year. During this time it has seen over 3,000 people take up the challenge and produce over 36,000 images. At first glance the challenge appears simple, at a rate of 1 photo an hour you need to interpret 12 topics. Topics this year ranged from ‘Street level’, to ‘We’re all in this together’ and ‘Join the dots’. However, the real challenge is one of the fundamental rules of this event – that the photographs must be captured in the order in which they are listed! Suddenly you find yourself unable to progress to the next topic until you are convinced you have the perfect shot. Perhaps the most testing element is the fear of reaching a topic only to find an ideal opportunity for one of those preceding it. Without this aspect though, the event wouldn’t be nearly as challenging, or indeed as fun!
With charged batteries and an empty memory card, anticipation builds until at 10am on Saturday morning when the first four topics are released. Being my first year as a ‘Photomarathoner’, I had little idea what to expect. What I did know, was that the topics would be open to interpretation and require a creative approach to really stand out. With free transport on both trains and buses within Cardiff, we were given the run of the city to explore those areas less well visited and to find those hidden gems which Cardiff has to offer. If you’re new to Cardiff, or are only here for a year, then this is arguably one of the best ways to explore the Capital. Despite having been in Cardiff for almost five years myself, it is events such as this which remind me just how much there is to experience and to find. On this visit to Cardiff Bay I found myself wandering away from the waterfront restaurants and bars and towards the surrounding homes and offices in search of inspiration for ‘Control’ and ‘Crossed wires’!
Having submitted my collection of photographs at the finish line, and received a certificate for successfully completing the marathon, the difficult process of judging now begins. There are a couple of weeks to wait until the winners are announced, with three prizes awarded for winning collections and a further twelve prizes for each topic winner. This year prizes will include vouchers to a local camera shop, your own photobook, photography courses and framed images. However, for many of those that took part, myself included, simply the satisfaction of taking twelve relevant photographs and the enjoyment of the day is reward enough!
An exhibition of all 5,400 photographs taken from this year’s marathon will be held between the 21 June – 5 July in the Cardiff Story, The Hayes. Entry is free and it would be a great opportunity for next year’s participants to gain some inspiration! For more immediate inspiration, a selection of this year’s photos can be found here.
As the name suggests, this event really is a marathon. It is both physically tiring over 12 hours but also mentally as your creativity is tested with each new topic. Despite this it is easily accessible; you don’t need the flashiest of cameras to compete, just a willingness to explore and some ingenuity! I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and am definitely considering a return trip to Cardiff next year to take part again!