Tableaux Naturae: Garden Party Fun

I don't know about you, but here at Steelyard every now and then we like to enjoy a nice tableau.

Defined by Merriam-Webster as "a striking or artistic grouping : arrangement, scene",  the word gained popular American parlance in the mid -19th through early 20th centuries when tableaux vivants-- " a depiction of a scene usually presented on a stage by silent and motionless costumed participants" -- were all the rage.

You dressed up in costumes (or took them off, apparently, depending on your role and/or physical attributes) and posed motionless as part of a scene or story.

Photo: Two Ways of Life, 1857 by Oscar Gustave Rejlander

Photo: Two Ways of Life, 1857 by Oscar Gustave Rejlander

Audiences came to view tableaux vivants live, but if there was a pioneering photographer handy to immortalize it on film, all the better.

It was all considered very chic and theatrical at the time; basically just an old-timey Mannequin Challenge without the moving camera.

Our modern interpretation of the form is truer to the original dictionary definition as we fancifully group digital images in a variety of "natural" themes and settings.  (We're calling them tableaux naturae --a term we just sort of made up because we thought the French-Latin mashup sounded cool, like something from a centuries-old textbook. )

The tableau naturae  below mixes some old-fashioned garden party elements (whispering palms, flickering hurricane lamps, a lurking garden gnome) with some less-traditional (and certainly not to scale) "guests".

It's our twisted version of a traditional southern outdoor soirée (think full moon, moss-draped oaks and chirping cicadas...)  where anything can happen!

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Brian Parks