Two Friends. Copyright: Stadtarchiv Dornbirn
Two Friends. Copyright: Stadtarchiv Dornbirn

More and more often historical photographs can be found in public spaces. A growing number of pictures are used in exhibitions, books and documentaries on historical topics. “Old” photographs are the raw material in advertising, for decorating hotels, restaurants, and business premises, and for design material. Currently we are experiencing a general “historicising”.

Why this increased focus on a pictorial past? Digital storage media and the Internet have simplified access to historical photographs and made it easier to process them.

The photographs seem to take us effortlessly into a bygone world, touch us and they trigger feelings in us. However, the only thing a photograph can offer is a manipulated view of a world that we do not or no longer understand.


Author: Mag. Werner Matt, Stadtarchiv Dornbirn, Marktplatz 11, A-6850
Dornbirn, Austria. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Homepage:


Trying to act. Copyright: Stadtarchiv Dornbirn
Trying to act. Copyright: Stadtarchiv Dornbirn



The task is to

  • reenact the setting of a historical photograph


  • to investigate, explore and understand the world of children at the end of the 19th century.

Prepare a presentation to show your work as a team.

The presentation should cover these topics:

a. discuss your first impression of the historical photograph “Two Friends”.

b. show your photographs and explain your experience as you reenacted

c. present your research and your ‘make-up-stories’

d. discussion all the presentations in the plenum





You should work in groups of three or four for this task.

1. Before you start, discuss your first impression of the historical
photograph “Two Friends”.

2. Reenact the posture of the photograph. Every group member should try out all three positions, those of the two boys as well as that of the photographer. Document the outcome with digital cameras or your smart phones.

3. Compare your impressions as actors and document them for the presentation

4. Use the background information, the web links and your own research in the web to get some general information to answer these questions

a. describe the different roles of the two boys and the photographer

b. give an impression of the live of poor and rich children in the industrial age

c. try to imagine the rest of their lives

5. Create a presentation covering these questions



Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding and communicating why photographs are constructs
  • Telling a simple story about childhood in the 19th century
  • Adapting his/her own behaviour to the context and situation in order to maximize his/her contribute to the team’s performance

Knowledge acquired

  • Basic knowledge of photographs as constructs
  • Basic knowledge of what childhood was like in the 19th century
  • Basic knowledge about body language by re-enacting
  • Fundamental knowledge of team working and presentation skills

Skills acquired

  • Collect information in the internet and make a small presentation
  • Organise a small group to handle an assign task
  • Organise a simple research
  • Act before a small audience

Competences acquired

  • Be aware about your own body language and give feedback about her/his body.



The aim is to make the make the participants able to work with visual
media, be aware of visual concepts and know something about the history of

It is intended that learners experience a new and
creative way to deal with visual information in the form of historic
photographs and learn historical facts with it. It is also meant for the
learner to increase he/her knowledge about body language by re-enacting and
his/her team working and communication skills by presenting their results; and
to gain some computer skills by researching the internet and summarising
information from different sources.