Copenhagen: Large turnout in 10-hour photo competition
26 Apr. 2018

Hugo Prestegaard from the Danish association FotoMarathon explains the rules to the more than 50 participants. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing/IMS

Highlights from Tri-City Photo Marathon 2018 in Copenhagen: The enthusiasm was high and the smiles broad, as more than 50 participants challenged their own creativity during the 10-hour competition on April 21.

The sun is shining from a blue sky, as IMS opens the doors to the Copenhagen edition of the Tri-City Photo Marathon 2018 – an international photo competition happening simultaneously in Cairo, Ramallah and Copenhagen.

The rules are simple: Within ten hours, the participants must photographically interpret 10 consigned themes. It is thus not a matter of running for the participants, but of challenging their creativity within a limited time frame.

See also: Tri-City Photo Marathon 2018

Sammy Situmorang travelled all night by bus from his home in Stockholm to participate. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing/IMS

Night bus to Copenhagen

One of the first to show up to register is 35-year old German Sammy Situmorang. He has been travelling all night from Stockholm, where he lives and works as a doctor, and arrived in Copenhagen at 8:15 AM. He completed the 24-hour photo marathons in Copenhagen and Stockholm last year, and when he learned about the Tri-City-version, he had to participate.

“I have been to both Cairo and Ramallah and I am curious to see the different kind of interpretations; I mean, the themes are the same, but the cities and the circumstances are different,” he says and adds:

“If the Tri-City Photo Marathon is repeated next year, I will go to Cairo and do it from there.”

An inclusive event

Standing inside at the registration desk and welcoming everyone with a smile is Muna Bur, coordinator of the event at IMS.

“We are really happy to see so many people showing up for this event,” she says and continues to register people.

5-year-old Noah Sloth had his photo marathon debut. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing/IMS

Next to her are co-organisers Hugo Prestegaard and Klavs Laksø from the Danish association FotoMarathon, that has been arranging the Danish photo marathon for almost 30 years.

At 10 AM, the official starting hour of the Tri-City Photo Marathon 2018, more than 50 people have appeared, registered, and received the first four themes of the day.

The group of participants is diverse including debutants as well experienced ‘photo-marathoners.’ Participating this day are both retirees, workers, students, and school children just as a few families spanning generations have registered.

The majority of the participants, though, are below 35 years of age with the day’s youngest photographer being 5-year-old Noah Sloth, who had his photo marathon debut. He received plenty of advice from his competitor and mother, Signe Sloth, who is a Copenhagen photomarathon veteran.

“Where do you want to go next?” Jacob Christensen asks his daughter Clara Christensen, who participates in the marathon, as they take a moment to plan the rest of the day. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing/IMS

Collaboration across generations

Four hours after they scattered across the capital, participants return to the IMS office in central Copenhagen at 2 PM to collect the remaining six themes. While most hurry off straight away after having received the themes, not wasting a minute, 12-year-old Clara Christensen takes the time to sit down and plan how best to interpret the remaining themes.

She has been photographing for a few years, but this is the first time she is participating in a photo marathon.

“It is really cool to be part of the Tri-City Photo Marathon – now it is not only my dad who will be judging my pictures, but a professional jury,” she says.

The dad in question, Jacob Christiansen, is sitting next to her with pen and paper jotting down his daughter’s plan. A non-participant himself, he has taken the day off to be Clara’s assistant and driver during the competition.

“It is a really cool event, and it is great to do something different with your children and collaborate on an activity like this – you get to know them in a different way,” he says.

72-year-old Janne Noack takes notes to the introduction, before the competition begins. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing/IMS

Cross-cultural pictures

The fact that the photo marathon is taking place at the same time in Copenhagen, Cairo and Ramallah is something that many participants in Copenhagen have been giving some thought:

Should they avoid certain motives as not to offend anyone? Will the participants in the two other countries interpret the themes differently?

Michael Irving Jensen, head of the Middle East and North Africa department at IMS, is happy that the participants notice and reflect upon the international element of the competition. But even though it is the first time a photo marathon takes place simultaneously in three cities, the organisers hope that the photographs will illustrate something universally human.

“Of course, the geographical diversity will lead to differences in the submitted pictures, but we hope that viewers will be able to look beyond these differences and recognize the thoughts and ideas behind. In this way, the images themselves turn into cross-cultural bridges that can help break down imaginary boundaries,” says Michael Irving Jensen.

Statement from Amer Shomali on behalf of the three theme composers: “In the marathon that is the lives we lead as human beings in the world today, we race to secure our basic – and not so basic – needs, unthinkingly following visions of an ideal life brought to us by the images of advertising that surround us. In this Tri-City Photo Marathon, on the other hand, we want to create instead a pause for reflection, for questioning the unquestioned.”

10 photos – no more, no less

Tired from spending an entire day out and about and from the effort of creative interpretation under time pressure, the participants return at 8 PM to hand over their photographs. The mobile users struggle with creating dropboxes online, while the rest line up with their memory cards ready to transfer their 10 pictures – no more, no less.

They leave with a smile and a clear ‘yes’ when asked whether they would consider doing another Tri-City Photo Marathon.

Over the next weeks, a local jury of three jurors will go through all the pictures before the winners are announced in early May. Criteria for selection of the winning images focuses on innovation in the interpretation of the themes. In the coming weeks, an exhibition will showcase pictures from all three cities.

“I have been reading about the concept, and I think it is great that it is taking place simultaneously in the three cities, ” says Jill Brillo, 25, who participated together with her boyfriend. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing/IMS

The Tri-City Photo Marathon 2018 was arranged by International Media Support together with Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI), The Danish House in Palestine (DHIP), FotoMarathon Danmark, and the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) in Cairo, with support from DAPP (the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme).