This weekend, Singapore was abuzz with activity as the annual Canon PhotoMarathon competition returned for the 16th year, and saw 1800 participants rushing around the country to capture the perfect shot.
The competition format is simple – throughout the day, themes will be given to competitors, who are then given 3 hours per theme to capture a photograph that they feel best suits it. Competitors are only allowed to use point and shoot cameras (no phone cameras), with the only edits to be made in camera alone. Winners stand to win over S$50,000 worth of Canon products, while all registered participants will stand a chance to win a pair of Lufthansa air tickets to Munich in the lucky draw segment. Meanwhile, Best of Show winners from the Open and Student categories will win an exclusive spot each in the Canon PhotoMarathon Asia Championship held in 2019, an all-expenses paid trip that gives participants a chance to explore various facets of photography under the tutelage of a professional photographer.
This year, the three themes were, in order: ‘Solitude’, ‘Simplicity’ and ‘Glow’. This year was also the first year the competition introduced the ‘dusk’ category of themes. Starting slightly later than previous years, the competition extended into the evening for competitors to test their night photography skills and better capture the third theme. Competitors were judged by a judging panel comprising photography veteran and EOS Boutique operator Teoh Peng Kee, National Geographic Award winning photographer Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan, and OOOZE co-founder Dionna Lee.
Says Jayaprakash: “Nowadays, various publications are looking for photos that have a message and can change people’s ideas and mindsets, particularly with regards to conservation in terms of wildlife photography. I myself grew up in the mountains surrounded by wildlife, and it was a natural progression for me to take up nature and wildlife photography.”
He continues: “Even though Singapore is pretty urbanised, it’s possible to take good wildlife photos. You know, I live in Pasir Ris and when not travelling, I’m at the beach most mornings looking for the Singapore otters. It’s amazing to see how well they’ve adapted to urban life here, it’s a great story of co-existence. There’s a very strong birding community here who form a network who’ll inform each other of sightings. Plenty of migratory birds from other countries flock here during the winter periods, and that’s when the long lenses will start to come out to chase the perfect shot.”
On what he was looking for in winners’ works as a judge, Jayaprakash says: “I’m completely focused on storytelling right now, and if a picture doesn’t tell me a story, it’s not doing much. There are so many pictures online, and the pictures you end up remembering are those that forge an emotional connection and make you feel something.”
Says Dionna Lee, a photographer, art director, set designer and stylist known for her work with publications such as Buro 24/7 and Esquire, and clients such as Starbucks and Apple: “These days, people are trying to build a story behind a product when they try to sell something. For myself, we like to put a fun, whimsical element to our shoots. Since we’re in the creative line, we think we should break style and convention and go in the completely opposite direction and go crazy with our shoots.”
She continues: “My recommendation then is to always break convention. If you see a crowd doing something all in the same way, the best way to stand out is to go in the opposite direction and think about what speaks to you, and the photo ends up becoming an extension of the self, from the way you shoot to the subject matter that catches your eye.”
What then did she look for in her judgment? Says Dionna: “I’m looking for colours. I think colour blocking is super cool, and with this competition being so fast-paced, a lot of people resort to shooting in black and white. But it’s the ones who play with colour really impress me. You know they can’t edit it with external programmes, and only depend on the camera capabilities. So you really have to plan and know how to capture that shot.”
Says Edwin Teoh, Head of Marketing, Domestic Operations, Canon Singapore: “Being in the business of selling and marketing Canon cameras, we were inspired by a grand vision of building a large and passionate community of photographers. And we truly believed that photography is accessible to anyone and has the ability to bring communities even closer together. The very first Canon PhotoMarathon was conceptualised in 2003, and the inaugural competition was held in Singapore.”
On the choice of participants and judges, Mr Teoh explains: “We welcome participants from all walks of life to join the Canon PhotoMarathon and test their creative mettle. Through the years, we’ve seen so many photo enthusiasts from across different age groups and even participants from neighbouring countries. Every year, we have three judges with very different styles to judge the Canon PhotoMarathon. This means we have varying perceptions on what makes a great photo and their different backgrounds would provide a good contrast on technique and composition. Similarly, our lineup of judges this year have very contrasting styles. Jayaprakash Bojan, a National Geographic Award winning photographer; Teoh Peng Kee, the mastermind behind the coffee table book, Travel Photography: Capturing The Sense Of Place, who honed his photography skills over two decades; and Dionna Lee, a photographer, art director, set designer and stylist best known for conceptual still life including food & product photographs.”
Mr Teoh also expresses how Canon will indeed groom the respective winners for a future in photography, saying: “The Best of Show winners from the Open and Student categories will win an exclusive spot each in the Canon PhotoMarathon Asia Championship (previously known as Canon Photo Clinic) held in 2019, which is valued at more than US$5,000. The all-expenses paid trip will bring participants on an exclusive journey of awe-inspiring scenery, to explore various facets of photography under the tutelage of a professional photographer. Through this experience, participants benefit from the collective expertise and different ways of seeing through a lens. Last year’s winners had the opportunity to embark on intensive photography journey led by renowned landscape photographer and instructor Goto Aki, whose trademark is creating image world-views, especially of journeys, that are tranquil and expansive beyond what can be captured with the human eye. His work has been exhibited in Canon Galleries across 6 major cities in Japan since 2010. There is also a total of more than S$50,000 worth of Canon products to be won, including Canon cameras like the EOS 5D Mark IV, EOS 80D and EOS 7D Mark II. We hope that the winners will continue honing their photography skills with their new equipment.”
Mr Teoh concluded: “Kyosei, which means living and working together for the common good, lies at the heart of everything we do at Canon. It’s about taking care of the society and being part of the community, and running our business in a sustainable way. Since the very first CPM in 2003, we have grown tremendously in our reach to inspire and proliferate the photography culture around the region. Photography has the powerful ability to transcend differences to convey touching everyday narratives and bring communities closer. Through Canon PhotoMarathon, we hope to encourage the younger generation to achieve big dreams. The annual competition is a blend of photography and sports. For participants to cross the finishing line, both mental and physical endurance are required for the full-day competition. We want to convey the message that with rigour and tenacity, we can achieve anything we put our heart to.”
With the winning photos decided upon and announced, the 16th Canon PhotoMarathon drew to a close, highlighting the ever growing interest in photography across the island. The sheer quality of works produced in the short amount of time with no edits was astounding, testament to how much the processing power of cameras has improved over the last decade and the keen eye so many of our local photographers have. Congratulations to all winners and participants, and to another successful edition of Canon PhotoMarathon.
Canon PhotoMarathon XVI took place at Suntec City Convention Hall 401-402, on Saturday, 28th July. More information is available at www.canon.com.sg.