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Photo Marathon — scheduled competitions

Competitions, annual (or bimonthly/monthly) Photo challenges, that influence citizens/volunteers design & shape the formats & rules each time. This involves them in the process, and can inspire people to look at their home streets in brand new ways.

Photo of Johan Löfström
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Social forum based online, maybe with an APP for smartphones too.

Project provider & manager shape a framework and initiates the first competition, the whole format should be made and formulated very loosely with lots of flexibility, to allow for participants/volunteers to contribute ideas on how each of the monthly challenges are performed, and allow changes over the years to allow for new technology to become used, or even invented. Each event can have its own theme or set of rules.

As soon as it is possible; hand over the complete "ownership" of the competition to the photographers/volunteers. Because all the potential to crowdsource most of details for the competition lies in activating users/content providers:

  • "clues" or "keywords"; ask photographers to email words before each event starts. Write or print all those words on small pieces of paper, and when the participants stand on the starting line, randomly draw and read some of those words, or let participants pick their 2-5 "personal" "keywords" out of a hat, and each one should then go out in the city and photograph based on those words. keywords could be nouns, or abstract, or "emotional" words, actual GPS-coordinates or typical local items found only in few places in Singapore area, to make it all more into a "scavenger hunt", see some more info on : /open/vibrant-cities/concepting/local-lore-treasure-hunt/
  • The competitions could be open for a week (from the starting time), or strictly limited to a 12 hour or 24 hour time period. With precise starting time, with a communal starting line, in a public place, that can create huge community spirit and enthusiasm among the participants and passing people, similarly like the real marathons or sprint events can cause. (for week-long competitions, you could send out updates or changes in the keywords or rules on email or text-messaging or twitter, for added levels and some unexpected suspense)
  • Theme rules: photographers must use only public collective transport or bicycles or skateboards during the "race". (Bring the pets for a walk?)
  • Competition should be open to all age groups, and to all types of cameras, to get more diverse pictures. (or once in a while you could limit to one type of camera, such as smartphones?)
  • Individual challenges and team games, you could try to randomly put strangers together in pairs or in trios. Also possible to let friends and coworkers form a team beforehand.
  • quirky idea: take one left arm of one participant, and tape it together with a right arm of another (random) participant, and make them share one camera only!!!

  • After the ended time period, voting takes place online. (on existing picture forums online, instagram, flickr, panoramio? or start one especially for this challenge?)
  • (don't print any of the photos, have all the voting, award ceremony online or using computer projector on a movie screen or white wall)
  • You could make all participants release their submitted pictures as open source, film editors could use, create different films out of them, similar to what Pedro wrote about: /open/connected/inspiration/urbanized-documentary-film-about-the-design-of-cities/


Revenue models to raise some money for local environmental and charity groups;

It needs to be free to participate, but you could have a fee on submitting photos in the voting: 1$/photo for the first 3-4 photos? or something like that, and then raising the "fee/cost" for additional photos, 2-5$/photo for additional photos, and maybe raise even more after that. you could also partner with local company that prints on t-shirts, merchandise, so participants can buy items with their photo printed on them.

Perhaps you could have the voting at a fee? 10 cents per vote? or ask for voluntary donations to charities at the voting web page?

for more ideas, please discuss in the comment section below, and read more about Photo Marathon!

and take a look at

Most photo competitions have rigid rules set up by a jury, but I know of not one that lets the participants formulate how the game is "played" or judged. Perhaps it turns out that none wants to be the winner, and to just participate in order to display all the photos from all participants…?

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

Investigating local area with a camera. Inspire to form teams to explore and be social. Causing friendships over a very environmentally friendly hobby. I believe that photographers see the world in little more particular detail throught their lens… they will notice stuff that noone else realise about a street or building or park.

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

Just build the portal, framework as open-source/share-ware, participants will send in ideas for development. Size of each event can grow easily. they can be scheduled all through the year and be placed at certain other local festivals or holidays. Could be franchised/licensed to other cities across the world.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

I have made contact with a local photo-club, and we will together attempt to arrange a local version of some kind, but maybe not now during winter, because it is so dark and cold on afternoons/evenings, some days it is impossible to be outside to photograph… but we could try to do 7 or 8 monthly competitions during the whole of summer 2013


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tan Yan Ling

Really love this idea! As I mentioned in the Inspiration phase, this has a total possibility of taking off! There was something similar in Singapore not too long ago; but it was more like a scavenger hunt.

For National Day this year, there was also a photo competition going on, where people take photos according to themes like 'My favourite Singaporean places'. From what I knew, the competition seems limited to a certain group only though.

For this idea, I think the unique point is opening it up as a community activity. I am especially interested in neighbourhood themes where people have to take pics in their neighbourhoods etc. These pictures can then be collated and displayed in the neighbourhood for people to learn more about the place they live in.

Take me for example:
I live in this neighbourhood called Toa Payoh, but am always found in another neighbourhood called Tiong Bahru because of the rich indie activity going on there as well as the rich history of Tiong Bahru (I can basically introduce Tiong Bahru's history to another foreigner). Recently I met some heritage enthusiasts and they told me so much more about Toa Payoh too (things which I didn't know). Would be great to learn more about my neighbourhood through activities like the photo marathon!

Photo of Johan Löfström

Hi, if the framework of the competition is in place, and scheduled regularly, you could allow for participants to reshape the theme for each event: Scavenger hunt (not bringing with the items to the finish, but just taking pictures of all the items on the list, so you could let participants send in the ideas of very rare or strange, heavy objects to "hunt" for)

You should make participants send in theme words in the weeks before the start, and sometimes you could ask for "abstract" words / "clues" to make photographs think hard about, like a few of the themes could be "Homestead" or "Heritage" or "relaxing"… Lets the playingfield be both themed, and loosely open to individuals interpretation and participation, and also discussions afterwards at the exhibition and open online voting process.

I find that the times that I have had camera in hand, on my own street, I start to watch all the millions of details much closer, and wonder a lot more about them… and about the neighbours

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