June 2011


My #11FMB (2011 Fotomarathon Berlin) Day

My muscles are surprisingly sore today. I hadn’t expected this after taking 24 photographs around Berlin yesterday for the Berlin Fotomarathon.

For a quick recap: the Fotomarathon is an event where you take 24 photos, in sequence, that illustrate specific themes or ideas, that all some how fit into one larger, overall motto. At the start line you receive the overall topic, plus a list of 8 prompts that you need to take photos for, as well as information on the next place you must go to check in.

Naturally the overall topic this year, my first year, was a disaster for me: Musik liegt in die Luft / Music is in the air.

There were a lot of reasons for this, but the most salient fact is that out of the 24 song titles selected for the competition, I had heard of, and listened to, zero. I had heard of exactly one artist out of the bunch, Marlene Dietrich – but her name appeared at the third stop for photo number 18. More on that later.

Since none of the song titles had any meaning for me, I was left to my own devices as to how to interpret the titles—and since I am an amateur at taking photos, I viewed each photo as a relatively independent event. I say relatively in that I would sometimes know that I wanted to be somewhere to get a photo of a specific thing for one of the song titles and would hunt for the intervening themes as I travelled between the place where I was and the place I wanted to be.

At the start line, I knew what I wanted to do for my first photo – the first photo was really the only photo defined by the race organizers: it had to include our number – and I was saddled with 279 – which was not the worst number to have, but there was no bus route with that number, and addresses rarely get that high – but I headed to a nearby mattress store where mattresses were sold for 279€ – used my iPhone to block some unnecessary numbers and, presto, I had a photo of me taking a photo of my number.

Ich bin ich (Rosenstolz)

I am me - a bit hot and sweaty from having powerwalked a kilometer to get this photo...

Die Großstadtpflanze (Claire Waldorif)

Big City plant - I knew that it had to be a plant growing through the cracks. I crawled on a dirty street corner to get this one.

The third photo was challenging, but I had a copy of Zitty, a biweekly Berlin events listing magazine (and, happily, by accident, a sponsor of the Fotomarathon) – so I opted to show planning for the weekend with a cup of coffee and Zitty – while in the sunshine.

Wochenend und Sonnenschein (Comedian Harmonists)

Weekend and Sunshine -- I realize now that the photo is largely out of focus. Crap.

Überall wird instandbesetzt (Chaotencombo)

There's repairs everywhere. I missed a guy fixing his bike by the side of the road by about 15 seconds. Crud.

Keine Schöneheit ohne Gefahr (Einstürzende Neubauten)

No beauty without danger -- high heel shoes are dangerous, right?

Photo number 6 was a bit of a challenge – the TV tower has ears – there is only one TV tower in Berlin and it’s a bit fetishized—and I wasn’t clear how I was going to capture it, but I did – Saturn (a Best Buy like store) on Alexanderplatz offers great views of it. I grabbed a CD and presto.

Der Fernsehturm hat Ohren (Lexy & K-Paul)

The TV Tower has ears. Not my best photo.

Süßes Leben -- Saures Leben (Wolf Biermann)

Sweet Life, Bitter Life -- A bombed church, out of chocolate.

Wir trafen uns in einem Garten (2Raumwohnung)

We meet in a garden -- on a bench, naturally.

After number 8, it was time to head to the checkpoint where we would receive topics 9 to 16. I finished about 15 minutes before the checkpoint would open, time mostly killed with travel from my last photo to the actual checkpoint. From there topic 9 was briefly challenging and my speed picked up.

Ich will Spass (Markus)

I want to have fun! -- A Keith Haring sculputre got the right idea -- right?

Chaos (Herbert Grönemeyer)

Chaos - Tree leaves, looking straight up. Unfortunately there was no wind to make them blurry...

Looking ahead at this point I knew what I wanted to do for photo number 13, so I decided to go to that point and see what I could find that would do for photos 11 and 12 – I think it worked out fairly well.

Unsichtbar (Farin Urlaub)

Invisible -- empty offices...

Monotonie (Ideal)

Monotony -- repetition is what was needed here -- ceiling/roof of the train station. It's in focus, really!

Change of Scenery: clearly a departures board. The closest one to me? At the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Done.

Tapetenwechsel (Hildegard Knef)

Change of Scenery -- I'm not certain Berlin Ostbahhof is really a change of scenery -- But Schiphol is!

Unbekanntes Wesen (Linie 1)

Unknown creature - a sculpture at the train station was my answer...

Punkhochzeit was a bit troublesome—but I had most of an idea when I decided to go up to the district of Berlin known as Wedding – I would rely upon word play in two languages. I picked up a small bottle of hair gel with an appropriate message and found a sign that said Wedding. I wanted to do this at the Rathaus Wedding, but there was a tree in front of the word Wedding, so that idea was squashed. I ended up at the U-Bahn station.

Punkhochzeit (Nina Hagen)

Punk Wedding -- anybody need a bottle of hair gel?

Immer da wo du bist bin ich nie (Element of Crime)

I am never there where you are -- shadowy reflections in rain on a moving train.

This time I finished with about an hour to spare and I headed to an Einstein Kaffee for Kaffee und Kuchen – and to relax for a bit. 45 minutes later I was at the checkpoint, waiting in line for the last set of prompts. The line was much longer, much earlier, this time.

I needed to figure out prompt 17, but prompts 18 through 23 seemed to be perfect for the 19th annual Lesbisch Schwules Stadtfest – that is the lesbian and gay city festival – at Nollendorfplatz.

I trusted that a furniture store would appear when I needed it the most, and it did:

Die Ballade vom anenehmen Leben (Brecht/ Weill)

The ballad of gracious living -- Berlin designed furniture. (But not my apartment!)

From there, it was gay, gay, gay:

Illusionen (Marlene Dietrich)

Illusions -- I knew what I wanted here, but it took me a long time. I was actually starting to get worried!

Ding (Seeed)

Thing - There are two in here, oops -- my mistake. Not every photo can be perfect.

Schwarz zu blau (Peter Fox)

Black to Blue -- I think that describes leather pride pretty accurately.

Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann (Nena)

Somehow, somewhere, sometime -- you will get over the rainbow!

I circled a block twice getting photos so that I could end up back at the Sling King for my photo to capture “A Midsummer night’s dream”

Ein Sommernachtstraum (Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy)

A Midsummer night's dream -- nothing like being a bear in a sling, eh?

Zauberland (Rio Reiser)

Magic land -- Dance floors are where magic happens, right? Too bad I fixated on getting the DJ and not the dancers.

Photo 24 proved to be a bit challenging – but I decided a nonstop XXX movie shop at the edge of the stadtfest would be perfect. I never saw anything better…

25 Stunden am Tag (Die Ärzte)

25 Hours a day -- Your day never stops, right?

Elsewhere: read about somebody who is a better photographer than me– and overplanned: Berlin FotoMarathon 2011: defeated by ambition and illness.

12 comments to My #11FMB (2011 Fotomarathon Berlin) Day

  • The Fotomarathon sounds like it was so much fun! Love the photos.

  • TV tower with ears! Is there anything it can’t do?!

    Loved the bear in a sling, and the angle the picture was taken from!

  • Wow, love your ideas for Sweet Life – Bitter Life, Change of Scenery, and I Am Never There Where You Are. It was definitely way more difficult that I thought it would be, and I’m looking forward to the exhibition and see everyone’s photos!

  • Seems like you had a good day, and managed to avoid most of the rain. Last year the FotoMarathon day clashed with the pride parade, and quite a few people had similar takes on the themes.

    Glad you liked my photos! Next year I’ll be better prepared, not over-prepared.

  • mateo

    This looks like it was fun and challenging! It would be fun if they had something like that here, though I don’t know if I would do as well as you…

  • Riayn – It was a blast — A lot more work than I could have imagine.

    Irish Berliner – Glad you like the bear in the sling — I love how happy the bear looks…

    Mandi – Thanks! I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of your photos…

    Luke Burrage – I hope that you have a better year next year. I hope that next year the contest is not on CSD day — the Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest is fine, but CSD — I would be really conflicted.

    mateo – it was a lot more challenging than I expected, but a lot more fun too — that said, Sunday I could barely walk!

  • Joanne

    very interesting.. and creative! being here at the time, i appreciate the challenges. good job!

  • koko

    Looks like you had a great time doing these! Wish I could have been there. I’m also happy that the mattresses were still on sale 😀

  • Joanne – Thanks!

    koko – I did. It would have been quite the challenge to do without knowing Berlin at all. I think it definitely helps to have insider knowledge of the city.

  • I think not having heard the music may have been to your benefit; some very interesting interpretations and excellent photos for an “amateur.” Very well done. I enjoyed reading about your adventure.

  • Jen

    Cool photos! I so wanted to go to that, but it didn’t work out this year. Next year it’s on my list, though!