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Monday, September 30, 2013

Wiener Fotomarathon 2013: Combining Polaroid And Digital Photography

Wiener Fotomarathon 2013 

by Gilbert Lechner

Combining Polaroid And Digital Photography

I participated in the Wiener Fotomarathon 2013. In short: 24 digital photos in 12 hours, about 1.800 participants, each photo has a different topic and the photos have to be shot in a given order.

Digital vs. analog 

What the heck has PolaWalk to do with digital you might ask yourself... In former times the photo marathon was a completely analog event and participants received a film with 24 pictures. These times are over but the organizers sticked to the number 24.

I of course used a Polaroid camera with film by „The ImpossibleProject“. But how can I hand in Polaroid pictures in a digital way? Well, in order to be able to participate I made digital photos of the Polaroids in a setting that is linked to the photos – which you will see later in the blog post.

 The first picture on the SD-Card had to include the participants number. Guess which one I had...

Since you have to take the photos in a certain order it helps to have a specific place or object that fits the topic in your mind. You have an average of half an hour for each photo, so it is quite obvious that you have to run – I guess that’s why they call it a photo marathon. Well, there is still the option of a half marathon, meaning you stop after the 12th photo and hand it in.
On the 14th of September, the day of this year's „Wiener Fotomarathon“ the weather was everything but good in the beginning. After having registered and receiving the topics (9 a.m.) for the marathon I tried to escape the venue as quickly as possible.

Breakfast & brainstorming

My plan was to brainstorm a bit before going to hunt down the best photos. None of my apps could show me a good place for brainstorming close by the venue. So I jumped on the subway to go to a café I have read about and wanted to try. By the way: My wish for next year would be to include a day ticket for public transport. The café was located in „Viertel2“, an area with a bunch of office buildings. Anyway, I was surprised to see that it was closed on the weekend. 

Then, it started drizzling. Damn. On my way through the urban ghost town I finally went for breakfast in a branch of a bakery chain which was situated in an underground station.
Even though I don't want to advertise this particular Viennese bakery chain, I have to admit that the „Pikantes Frühstück“ is a pretty good deal.

There we go!

I decided to prepare sandwiches with the Kornspitz, the ham and the cheese from the breakfast. I ordered an extra jam to guzzle the rest of the bread. Obviously there was no jam in a „pikant“ (meaning savory) breakfast.  It was a really good choice to prepare the snack, I can tell you. Later I was glad to have my Kornspitz with me.  From leaving the bakery shop until the evening I was constantly on the move.
For the upcoming 7 photos I had a clear vision and that was reason enough for me to finally get going. It was already after 10 o’clock. For some of the 24 photos I had absolutely no idea or at least not a good enough one. I brainstormed with friends and family via phone, SMS and Facebook about where to find good spots for the remaining subjects. All in all I rushed back and forth the city, took photos, ate my sandwich,... I spare you the details ;-)
Finally, here are the photos (the time of shooting and the respective topic in German are written on the photos + a loose English translation). Pictures say more then words:

1 Bunt/colorful

The graffiti on this picture can be found at the Donaukanal and was created during the Cash, Cans & Candy graffiti festival.

2 Drahtesel/bicycle

I found this old-fashioned bike at the WUK. The bike workshop was closed, so I had to take the photo from the outside.

(ab)gehoben/elevated or lifted

I took photos of hats lying on the hat rack of a car – for elevated and lifted at the same time. Thanks Caro and Carlo!

4 an der Ringstraße/at the ring street

The stony dude on the photo is a statute that is situated in front of the Austrian parliament which can be found on the ring street.

5 Das Abendteuer beginnt vor der Tür/the adventure starts right outside

On this picture you find the front door of a school.

6 Ich wohne in der Stadt/I live in the city

That's the view from my flat.

 7 Papier/paper

Paper that waits to be shredded.

8 unbekannt, aber sehenswert/unknown but worth seeing

The Jewish cemetery at Seegasse is really something unknown but well worth seeing.

9 flüssig/liquid

I had the idea for this on my way to the originally intended subject. In Vienna you say "flüssig" for being in funds.

10 im Zehnten.../in the tenth...

For this photo I went to the tenth... district.
To fabulous Tichy, one of Vienna's most loved ice cream places.

11 im Fokus/in focus

In the background of this picture you see my Polaroid SX-70 with auto-focus.

12 ICH BIN für alles bereit/I AM ready for everything

I was desperately looking for punks on Mariahilferstraße. It is nearly a miracle that it took me 10 minutes to find these lovely bunch.

13 Geradlinig/linearly

Frank ist a controversial Austro-Canadian hobby politician.

14 Typisch Wien(erisch)/typically Vienna/Viennese

In order to get the picture, I ordered a Coffee.

15 Augen zu und durch/close your eyes and let's go

The gateway for ambulance cars that are entering the general hospital.

16 aussergewöhnliche Architektur/exceptional architecture

You can't really see how special this building is on the Polaroid therefore check it out at „Griechengasse“.

17 Silhuetten/Silhuettes

I actually went to a station of the underground line 6 (it’s an elevated train for the most part) to see if the fence (designed by Otto Wagner) was a good subject. When I entered the station I knew I had to compose the lamps with the window as you can see in the picture.

 18 einmal anders/this time different

The sign on the house says „horse butcher and horse meat smoker".

19 stromlos/currentless

Currentless as in no electricity.

20 im Untergrund/underground

This wonderful couple can be found at the underground station Schottentor (Exit Hohenstaufengasse).

21 verbunden/connected

It was not intended to have the „BIPA“ sign in the picture... That's when I realized that Polaroid cameras have a hell of a parallax error – something I will mention in my upcoming walks ;-)

 22 Lichtermeer/sea of lights

As you might have guessed. Yes, it's a wall of LEDs.

23 genervt/annoyed

I know who to meet if I need somebody who is annoyed.

24 Abschied/farewell

This photo was still developeing when I started taking the final digital photos.

Running - out of time

All in all the Polaroid approach was quite stressful but fun. After taking the pictures I had to digitize them to hand them in. I really got under time pressure in the end because taking the digital photos took way longer than expected. I rushed to the collection point.
I ended my special and very long PolaWalk with dunking my contribution (in the form of a SD-Card) in one of the finisher-envelopes. It was seven to nine. Nine p.m. was the deadline. The 12 hours just flew by.
Although the main prize is really nice: a trip to northern Norway to see and capture the northern lights – I am NOT so much looking forward to winning it: My mother already notified me that she would like to come with me. No just kidding, if one of the organizers reads this – I would still thankfully take the trip ;-)
Hope to see you at the „Wiener Fotomarathon 2014“. Maybe we're gonna have a PolaMarathon Vienna one day, who knows? Time will tell.



PS: If you are interested in experiencing Vienna through the lens of a Polaroid camera, we would be very happy to have you in one of our tours. Please go to www.polawalk.com for dates and booking.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your article and looking through the pictures. I had a similar idea back in 2009 and then won the Wiener Fotomarathon:


    For me the day I won the Marathon will always be remembered. I meanwhile alo have a small photography business (http://familienfotografen.at) specialized on family portrait and wedding photography. I tell you that without winning the Wiener Fotomarathon I would have probably never thought about doing this.

    I hence wish you good luck with your series - I will certainly cross my fingers for you!

    All the best and again congratulations to your great pictures!


    1. Thanks a lot for your comment and for your encouraging words, Martin. I am glad this event gave you the push to really start your business (good webiste :-)). Good to know there are chances to win with this kind of approch.

      All the best,


  2. Cool Photos!
    The "couple" ist the brand couple of Almdudler :) http://www.slevopolis.cz/images/iou/c2.jpg
    good luck! :)

    1. Thank you for your comment! Glad you liked the photos!