Sheffield Photomarathon.
No running required.

Launched in 2016, the Sheffield Photomarathon is a photography competition with the challenge to capture six photos on six given topics in six hours. Photomarathons have been held in cities all around the world, including Berlin, New York, Stockholm and Sydney. With Sheffield obviously rivalling any of those cities for exciting things to photograph, I signed up for the 2017 event.

I enjoy photography, but my experience with it is often alongside a professional (who knows what they’re doing) or snapping away on holiday (pretending to know what I’m doing). So the Sheffield Photomarathon was a great opportunity to play around with my new bit of kit and flex those photography muscles.

More than the photography, what I relished most was the time and space the competition granted to view and explore the city. I’m from Sheffield, it’s where I grew up, but never have I blocked out six hours just to walk around and look at the place. The Photomarathon gave me this opportunity. Within the time I spent taking pictures I found places and spaces I’d never seen before as well seeing the change in areas I’d once been familiar with. You quickly find yourself paying attention to the smallest details hidden around the city, it’s a wonderful frame of mind to be in.

As well as the 6 photos, 6 topics, 6 hours structure of the competition, there was one more rule that provided the real challenge. On the day of the event, the six topics were released in a specific order; #1 Hidden, #2 Lines, #3 Pleasure, #4 Contact, #5 Modern and #6 Out of place. The six pictures you submit have to be in that order.

As a designer, my natural approach to a creative project is to explore a multitude of ideas. To push and pull those ideas around, test them, break them, scrap the ones that don’t work and evolve the ones that do. Not on the Photomarathon. You see a great idea for topic 1 when you’re on topic 3 – tough. You either leave that gem for someone else to find or you start again from scratch (I couldn’t even cheat by fiddling with my camera settings).

I had to kick my intuition into overdrive. I’d see something, think “that works”, snap it and move on. It was a way of thinking I initially found difficult to get into; I’d noodle around with an idea, walk backwards and forwards between shots and generally feel frustrated. It wasn’t until after topic 3 (and lunch) that I started to loosen up and just walk around, letting ideas come and go, only stopping when the illusive “that works” approval popped into my brain. Soon enough I had my six shots in the bag.


I signed up to the Photomarathon as a bit of fun and to explore the city. But what really surprised me was how it challenged and shifted they way I creatively think. I had to listen to my gut instinct. So perhaps the next time there’s a pressing deadline and that layout, logo or strapline needs finishing, I can tap into my “that works” mentality and feel at ease.

The Photomarathon exhibition is now on display in the downstairs entrance of the Millennium Gallery showcasing 300 different views of Sheffield. You can see all the entries from this year’s event here

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