Tableau Vivant – the „living picture“

I got to admit: Because of photography I often get the chance to be part of something special. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t even have heard about this wonderful project funded by the Citizen Foundation Halle (Bürgerstiftung Halle).


In July two school classes created and performed a so called “tableau vivant.” The idea behind this “living picture” is to pick a scene from an opera, build the scenery, get dressed up and display this scene without using words. In our case students could choose between Carmen, Tamerlano, Salomé, The Jungle Book and a not specified fantasy style scene.


Painting a fresque for the background decor of Tamerlano.
Painting a fresque for the background decor of Tamerlano.

I could observe a fascinating process. Not only had the students come from different schools. One class came from a grammar school, the other from an elementary school. Thus there was a significant age difference between the 3rd grade and the 7th grade. But also they originated from different districts of the community, in addition to geography if you know what I mean. However, the boys and girls blended quite well in their common tasks. I saw “young and old” together cutting paper, picking clothes and all in all working hand in hand.


Kids painting the scenery for the opera Carmen
A bull for the "Carmen" decor.

Despite – or maybe because of – having experience working with young people myself, I was skeptical at first. But when I remember the first project team meeting at Josefine’s place, all doubts were gone. Josefine Cyranka is an artist herself. In many ways. And certainly bringing talented people together is one of her arts. She untited a jack-of-all-trades craftsman, a designer, an artist, a costume designer, a make-up artist, an ambitious teacher and a couple of people working in the background. And as you can imagine, all of them were passionate to share something of their crafts with the school students. Thus it became clear to me, the project had to become a success.


Donation made by the Hallianz Foundation
Donations by the Hallianz Foundation.

As predicted, the students very much enjoyed the process of crafting and eventually slipping into different roles. Seeing the final result, the perfect scene decor and the passion of all actors involved, I asked some of the students for some extra shots. There was not too much time. However I could manage to get a nice shot of the wizard Merlin. She(!) had the most elaborate costume and undergone the most changes. In the beginning it was not easy for her to change from a young beautiful girl into an old, gray-haired man. Through making her portrait I wanted to express my acknowledgement for a probably not so easy transformation at such a young age.


Portrait of the wizard Merlin
Merlin - the wizard.

Also the setting of Tamerlano was just too tempting. I asked the girls in their baroque style costumes if they would like to pose for me. I took only a few very quick shots without giving too much direction. Playing with the card game came actually quite naturally. You can see my facebook page for the other pictures of this short series. All in all I am happy having been part in this “living picure” project. I have met very talented people and gained new ideas for future projects. At this time it is not certain if the project will be repeated next year. But perhaps my pictures will help to remember and to narrate the joy all participants had during executing this school project.


Tamerlano / baroque style shooting
Doing some little extra. Baroque style shooting shoot with two of the girls. Both of them gifted models!

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