Talent of the Year 2020 - FINALIST: Tomas Engel
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Most of Germany’s marksmen’s clubs as we know them today have been founded in the 19th century. Nevertheless, the tradition can be traced a lot further back – even to the middle ages. Along the way, these institutions have served a variety of different purposes.
In Northern Germany, for example, Duke Otto II had at his command no more than four soldiers to defend the city of Harburg from intruders. Shrewd ruler that he was, he came up with the idea to simply train the entire male citizenry in the use of weapons. To spark his subjects’ enthusiasm, he devised a big celebration centered around bird shooting.
This contest has survived into the present as an annual spectacle lasting several days. It’s one of the hallmarks of Germany’s sport-shooting culture: Each year men and women come together in one of 14.347 registered associations – housed without exception in stuffy, Biedermeier-decorated cabins – to shoot at brightly colored wooden birds. The winner is named „Schützenkönig“ – champion marksman – for a year and is awarded the honor of footing the other members’ beer bill on a regular basis. Incidentally, these bills can run up to 12.000€ – causing some members to drop out of the contest long before the final shot and have a drink at the bar instead.
As Duke Otto’s marksmen defended Harburg’s city limits in their time, so do today’s marksmen’s clubs defend an antiquated sense of home and belonging.
Tomas Engel grew up in Rostock, Hamburg and Berlin. He studied photography at the HAW-Hamburg in the class of Linn Schröder. He is married to the artist marialuisa.