Photo marathon captures Sheffield in a different light

The Winter Gardens, Saturday, 10am, and it’s raining. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get from ‘Tickled Pink’ to 'End of the Rainbow' by four in the afternoon. En route, you need to stop off at ‘Out of the Blue', ‘Golden Oldie’, ‘In the Dark’ and ‘Seeing Red’. Ready? Go!

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 9:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 10:32 am
Eve-Maria Hickey and daughter Anna
Eve-Maria Hickey and daughter Anna

“We decided to go for a coffee first,” said Stephen Glossop, who’d kept his eye on the weather. “To discuss tactics.”

Sheffield’s fourth PhotoMarathon last Saturday was the biggest yet, with 349 people aged from three to 82 setting out around the city to create six colour-themed photos in six hours, in the precise order noted above.

“Framing it like this makes it a challenge,” said Photo Marathon originator Claire Thornley, adding that the brief for the judges was to reward photos that are ‘creative, spontaneous and original.’

Sheffield Photomarathon 2019: Seth Robertson (8) at work

You don’t even need a camera: smartphones were often the creative tool of choice.

“It’s about levelling the playing field for people,” said Simon Grason from Harrison Cameras, who provide prizes and technical support for the event. “Having to do the photos in order means it’s about spotting the right thing at the right time.”

The idea began during Sheffield’s ‘Year of Making’ year in 2016, and was launched by Claire Thornley and Kat Hall of the ‘Our Favourite Places’ local culture guide website after seeing similar events in Berlin and Cardiff.

“The Photomarathon is a really tangible way to encourage people to explore the city, to see it in a different light while doing something creative,” said Claire.

Tickled Pink by Piece Yen

The first event had six ‘making’ themes looking at Shapes, Noises, Connections, Making History, Making a Meal and Making Faces. The format has continued every year since, with photographers arriving in the city centre on Saturday after paying their £10 entrance fee without a clue about the year’s themes.

The approach then was to pause and plan (hopefully while the rain slowed a little) and then set off on a whirlwind tour within the city boundary ticking off each coloured theme as you go. (The visit of thousands of Liverpudlians to Bramall Lane caught many competitors’ imaginations until they realised that most of the visitors were protecting their red Liverpool shirts underneath their raincoats).

Scott Robertson had entered all the previous Photomarathons, and this year was taking part with his eight year old son, Seth. Scott takes cityscapes and nature photographs usually, but enjoys the quick thinking required at the Photomarathon.

“Normally you almost have too much time to plan and formulate a photo, so here I really enjoy the challenge of being spontaneously creative,” said Scott, adding that another challenge is meeting the 2-4 word brief without being either too obvious or too abstract.

Lucy Sorby and daughter Poppy (6)

Seth enjoyed the competitive side, and has an eye for shapes, colours and patterns, which resulted in him claiming the overall prize for under sixteens after the judges had studied more than 2,000 images earlier this week.

Other winners were Beth Haudiquet for best overall set of photos and Orla Egleston for best set taken on a smartphone.

“I like photographing in Sheffield, because there are lots of interesting shapes on the buildings,’ said Seth.

“The city is always changing, and doing this every year you can see it evolve from one year to the next” added Scott after covering nearly seven miles seeking out the family photo sets on Saturday..

The queue at the finish

Simon Grason said photography is more popular than ever, with people inspired by phone photography to move onto real cameras.

“This is one of the biggest photography events in the country, “ he said. “Sheffield really is amazing for photography, with the landscape and a great mix of old and new around the city.

“I got to see things I hadn’t noticed before,” said teenager Evie Glossop.

All the photos from this year’s event will find their way onto the Photomarathon website, and there’ll be an exhibition of some of the photos in the Winter Gardens from October 14-28.

“We think the Photomarathon is inspiring people,” said Kat Hall. “And that’s one reason we want to carry it on.” Visit

Pete Southwood checks his pictures after cyclimg in from Hollow Meadows to meet the finish deadline
Out of the Blue by Katie Cardwell