Denbigh Midsummer Festival is an annual festival to celebrate the best of Denbigh, my hometown. The festival holds a variety of events, one being a Photomarathon where entries are displayed at Denbigh Museum and are judged by local photographers and filmmakers. This year however, due to the pandemic and lockdown the Denbigh Midsummer Festival was called off, and consequently the Photomarathon wouldn’t happen. After some conversations between organisers of the event, Rob and Edwina Stephen thought it might be fun to have a Facebook Photomarathon for the month of June and set up the Facebook Page ‘Lockdown Photomarathon / Marathon Lluniau Cyfnod Cofid’ as administrators.
After hearing about the Photomarathon from my parents, I joined the Facebook page and went over the rules of participation. For the first 26 days photographs should be inspired by the letters of the alphabet. So June 1st would be the letter A, June 2nd the letter B and so on, until June 26th. June 27th–30th would be the colours red, yellow, green and blue – one colour for each day, and in that order. Each day, you could post a photo for the appropriate letter or colour and if you wanted add a comment pertaining to your situation in isolation. The Photomarathon wouldn’t be judged this year as in previous years Rob found “90% of judges comments were ill-informed and based far too much on the technicalities of particular images” and that they clearly weren’t familiar with Cartier-Bresson’s view that “Sharpness is a bourgeois comment.” With no judging, there would be no prizes, however as Rob Stephen mentioned “it might create a varied and interesting record of one month during this extraordinary time” and I couldn’t agree more!
Taking part in the photo marathon was great, I didn’t take it to seriously and just enjoyed waking up every day to the challenge of finding a photo to match the specific days’ letter. Throughout the four weeks, I was relaxed approach to how the images were generated or whether they were taken on the day of submission. Sometimes I would look back through all my old photos and submit an image I had taken years prior, on other days I would wake up grab my phone and go take that day’s image on the day or occasionally submit a collage of image I had taken on my DSLR.
One of the greatest things about the Photomarathon, was the variety of people who took part. When talking to Rob Stephen he mentioned how he feels “that art/photography are often perceived as things that require some kind of ‘talent’ or special expertise” and how one of the key goals was for the challenge to be more accessible to people with all level of skills with a camera and to “remove the barriers set up and… maintained by the gatekeepers of culture.” I myself wasn’t to heavily focused on challenging myself to take great images, rather to challenge myself to think outside the box and push my creativity and I found this incredibly freeing in a way. No pressure, no expectations… just a fun and enjoyable way to keep my creative juices flowing!
There was an average of about 75/80 images a day, and seeing other peoples’ photos was very inspiring and the kind and welcoming community was very motivational. There were 196 registered members on the page which Rob said was nearly 6 times as many people as had previously entered the physical Photomarathon, showing how the online format attracted a different, wider and more diverse audience.
It’s been a great experience for many people, me included and when I asked Rob about feedback about the marathon he said that “it seems to have fulfilled some sort of need for some of the participants, to the extent there have been some requests that we carry it on in some way.” Personally, I found it great to interact with other participants about the images we had taken, not too focused technicalities but rather the meaning, message or just pure creativity of them. The relaxed manner allowed everyone to joke about a bit and just have fun which I believe is much needed during these strange times. Whilst I don’t believe my technical skills have develop through this challenge, I do believe that I have become more creative, open to other peoples interpretations and more relaxed with my own idea of the perfect image.
And, finally, I would relish the challenge of another Photomarathon in the future and look forward to what new briefs, ideas and rules could be implemented to push my creativity to the next level.
Here are some of my own favourite entires: