Home » Berlin Fotomarathon 2011: Part 1

Berlin Fotomarathon 2011: Part 1

A Fotomarathon is a competition under extreme circumstances. Within 12 hours participants must put together a series of 24 photos. One city, 12 hours, 24 themes.

After totally underestimating the challenge of a Fotomarathon, I’m exhausted and kind of thrilled at the same time.  At the start line, we discovered the overall motiv of the day to tie together our photographs: Music is in the air / Musik liegt in die Luft.  We also received eight different themes to guide our first eight photographs — all of which were songs whose performers have some sort of special relationship to Berlin.  Oh, and these themes had to be photographed in the order given.

Other than that, we were free to interpret and photograph as we wished, as long as we were back to the next meeting point on time (four hours later) to receive the next set of themes.  There were three meeting points total, including the finish line — where the organizers downloaded our pictures and made sure we only had 24 photos, and that they were all taken within the 12-hour time frame.

I love photography and am inspired every day by the things I see around me — but it’s a whole other ball game when you’re working with a preset theme, need to thread the photos together somehow, and accomplish it under a time crunch.  The entire 12 hours I consumed only two Red Bulls (given out at the meeting points), a candy bar, and some granola mix.  I was so exhausted, sweaty, and sore by the end that you would have thought I had run a real marathon.

Anyway, I don’t have the energy to detail the story of all 24 photos at the moment, so I’ll split my sharing into three parts, just like the competition:

Photo 1: I am me

Photo 1: I am me / Ich bin ich by Rosenstolz. Mein Schatz was my partner in crime during the Fotomarathon, helping figure out the creative and logistical aspects, and even took some of the shots himself.  We took a long time (perhaps too long) trying to come up with our creative strategy, but eventually decided to use confetti and streamers in each photo to represent the sound of music in the air.  Also, our start number had to be featured in the first photo somewhere.

Photo 2: Big city plant

Photo 2: The big city plant / Die Großstadtplanze by Claire Waldorff. Although mein Schatz thought that “Großstadtplanze” is a reference for someone who loves the big city, we decided to go literal with this one.

Immediately after taking this photo — even though we weren’t done with the first eight photos yet — it was already time to run (literally) to the next meeting point to avoid getting disqualified and to pick up our next set of themes.  Luckily, the rules allow you to space the 24 photos any way you please, as long as you photograph them in the given order.  So after getting the themes for Photos 9-16, we continued on with Photo 3.  Phew, I told you it was exhausting!

Photo 3: Weekend and sunshine

Photo 3: Weekend and sunshine / Wochenend und Sonnenschein by Comedian Harmonists. Part of what made yesterday difficult was the on and off down pours.  So we took an ironic bent on this photo and headed to a sun studio (which are way more ubiquitous here in Germany, hence the joke), where we paid 2 Euros to spend seven minutes taking photos.

Photo 4: There's repairs everywhere

Photo 4: There’s repairs everywhere / Überall wird instandbesetzt by Chaotencombo. With this song, mein Schatz was pretty sure that it was a play on words referring to the occupied buildings in Berlin (which maybe doesn’t translate so well).  So we found a well known occupied house in Mitte, went into the courtyard and set up our photo.  As you can see, it was in the middle of another down pour. We also met some of the people living in the house, and they seemed pretty cool with us taking photos for the Fotomarathon.

Photo 5: No beauty without danger

Photo 5: No beauty without danger / Keine Schönheit ohne Gefahr by Einstürzende Neubauten. We originally just planned to do an “every rose has its thorn” take on this theme, but then saw tons of police vans around Alexanderplatz, and thought it added nice contrast in color and meaning.

Photo 6: The TV tower has ears

Photo 6: The TV tower has ears / Der Fernsehturm hat Ohren by Lexy & K-Paul. Here we decided to play around with the idea of the Stasi listening in on the conversations and lives of citizens in the former East Berlin, and headed over to the DDR Museum to photograph some of their equipment for bugging apartments.

Photo 7: Sweet life, bitter life

Photo 7: Sweet life, bitter life / Süßes Leben, Saures Leben by Wolf Biermann. Since we were still in the DDR Museum, we continued with our former East Berlin interpretation in capturing a former DDR living room, complete with an old DDR TV program.

Photo 8: We met in a garden

Photo 8: We met in a garden / Wir trafen uns in einem Garten by 2Raumwohnung. Not too far from the DDR Museum, we came across a park with the statues of Karl Marx and Friederich Engels.  Since it was again pouring rain and we were tight on time, we decided this would be our best shot for interpreting this theme.

Wow, this is starting to get pretty epic, right?  So, for the Photos 9-24 in our Fotomarathon and the stories behind them, be sure to tune in over the next few days!


  1. Esther says:

    Oh, I love your take on the songs! You mastered the challenge well! I wanted to do the Fotomarathon, too, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. Maybe next year …
    Looking forward to see part 2!

  2. Debi says:

    Wow! What an amazing challenge! These are amazing photos! I really like the one of the rose with the Polizei van in the background! Fantastic!!! Can’t wait to see the nest installment.

  3. tqe | Adam says:

    Impressive set of first shots — although had I been in your place and just starting work on photo number 3 at the first checkpoint, I would have panicked–but I get the sense that you remained calm :)

    I actually pondered doing something like what you did for Süßes Leben, Saures Leben, but I forgot the existence of the DDR Museum.

  4. @Esther: Thanks, it was definitely helpful to have two brains to put together on the creative aspects of the Fotomarathon. I would definitely recommend doing the Fotomarathon at least once, if you haven’t already!
    @Emily @Dad @Debi: Glad you like the photos so far, I’ll be curious to hear what you think about the rest…
    @Adam: Oh, there was definitely panicking involved, but somehow we pulled through. ;) But I think as time wore on, our photos became a bit more rushed and less creative than this first set. If I do it again next year, I definitely would maybe plan things a little differently, but it was a fun experience!

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