What is the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon?

Waiting for the first theme reveal at the 2009 marathon         Photo by John Biehler


The 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon is a fun challenge designed to test the skill, creativity and quick thinking of photographers. The true-to-life setting of minimal time, few exposures and creative carte-blanche is an exciting exercise for any photographer – from the upstart amateur to the avid pro – and gives participants a chance to test themselves on a variety of different themes and techniques against photographers from all walks of life.


Each participant is handed a roll of film with only 12 exposures and in the course of 12 hours, is given 12 themes that have to be interpreted and photographed in the sequence that they are given. All participants must have their own 35mm camera. The 12 themes are made public at the top of every new hour so that the photographers have to check in every hour to receive their next theme. It is left to the photographer to decide when, where and how he/she wants to make the exposures and how to interpret the themes. All participants have to hand in their film before the end of the 12th hour and only those with all 12 exposures will qualify for judging.

The strict use of classic 35mm film rather than digital photos to be uploaded at a certain time is done to level the playing field. Without the luxury of taking several exposures of the same subject and subjecting these exposures to post-processing before submission, the participants are forced to think before they shoot and be discerning in how they approach each subject. It further levels the playing field by removing any non-photographic skill advantages. After all, this is a photo marathon and not a Photoshop one!


This year’s 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon will be held on Commercial Drive on Saturday August 31st, 2013. The home base will be the JJ Bean location on The Drive. This is where all the photographers sign in at the beginning of the event (9am), where they have to return to at the top of each hour to get the next theme, and where all the film must be dropped off by the end of the 12 hours. This constant return will make the event both more social and more challenging, and work both as a creative obstruction and a creative booster.

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