A MERE YEAR AFTER GRADUATING WITH A BACCALAUREATE DIPLOMA, OBERAMMERGAU NATIVE SEBASTIAN SCHULTE STARTED SERVING AS THE PASSION PLAY'S OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER
"The only way to do great work is to love what you do." It is this quote by Steve Jobs which photographer Sebastian Schulte presents as his motto on his website. From looking at his pictures, there is no doubt that Schulte truly loves his work. Ever since the cast was first announced back in 2018, he has been faithfully capturing the Passion Play's evolvement with his camera. As he zooms in closely on his subjects' faces, their whole range of emotions is captured in Schulte's photos: their euphoria and excitement when the cast's names were published on the large board; their level of concentration and their team spirit during rehearsals; their pain when the Passion Play needed to be postponed from 2020 to 2022; the spark of excitement rekindled at the restart of rehearsals. In Schulte's group pictures, the cast's sense of team spirit comes across loud and clear: whether it's children sitting in a row eagerly awaiting their turn or the men are gathered around the cross to set it up together. Everything seems carefully composed, even though Schulte is only capturing what he personally sees. But then again, he does see things from his own unique perspective. What he creates are "snapshots" for eternity.
It is no coincidence that Schulte was appointed as the Passion Play's official photographer only a year after graduating with a baccalaureate. After having applied for the case of the 2018 Passion Play, he received a call from the Play's second director, Abdullah Kenan Karaca, who requested him to drop by briefly at the Passion Play Theatre. Sebastian was 15 years old at the time. At the theatre, director Christian Stückl explained the reasons why they needed him: They were just in the process of reviewing the adolescents' applications. "Most of them had pasted kindergarten photos on their applications, so Abdullah and Christian had no idea what these people currently looked like." And because Sebastian, unlike most of the others, not only had a recent photo on his application but a photo that was also professionally edited, his application stood out amid all the children's pictures. They asked Schulte if he knew any of the people on the applications and what they looked like now. At that time, the Play's directors had no idea that Schulte was already Ettal Gymnasium's official class and yearbook photographer and in that capacity already had up-to-date pictures of all students. Needless to say, it was a big help.
Sebastian Schulte at work (photo: Lukas Schulte)
After their first meeting, Sebastian Schulte requested to take pictures during the cast's announcement. So Christian Stückl took him along to the press conference. From that point, Schulte always had his camera on him and was taking photos during rehearsals and all around the theatre. Having participated as a child back in 2010, Schulte has always been aware of how huge the Passion Play really is. Although not quite able to understand everything at the time, he still has vivid memories of his unforgettable experience. This time, he will be playing one of Caiaphas' servants. In his registration form, he had checked off "Roman" as his role of choice. "I wasn't too keen on growing out my hair and beard back then," he says. And belts out a hearty laugh. Because right now, you couldn't possibly guess his former aversion to lots of hair: Sebastian is one of those who haven't seen the inside of a barber shop since the first Hair and Beard Decree in 2019. "When your hair is medium length, it's always flying around your face, which is totally annoying," he says. "Things get better once your hair has a certain length. And the beard is also OK at that point." Meanwhile, he's happy not to be playing a Roman. And his long hair and beard have become something of a trademark for him.
Christian Stückl at the shooting for the illustrated book (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
Living Image "The Dance around the Golden Calf" (photo:Sebastian Schulte)
Selfportrait (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
He started photography at the age of 12. That was when he was gifted his first DSLR camera by his uncle. Prior to that, he had already done some experimenting with a camcorder, photographing vultures while on vacation in Austria. Schulte, who is originally self-taught, was awarded an art scholarship from Ettal Gymnasium in 2018 which he used to finance a photography course with Heinz Zak in Scharnitz. Even before graduating from school, he registered a small business and started taking photos of König Ludwig Lauf in Oberammergau, Germany' largest cross-skiing competition in Naturpark Ammergauer Alpen, in the valley of König Ludwig, and of Ettal monastery. He is currently in the process of applying to Munich University of Television and Film and aims to study design/cinematography. While he is looking forward to motion pictures as his next career step, he knows that photography, his first love, will never fall by the wayside but will ideally be enhanced by his new moviemaking skills.
He will continue to accompany the 2022 Passion Play's evolvement and was given the green light to contribute to the official illustrated book. Photographer Birgit Gudjonsdottir asked him several weeks ago to join her team. He was delighted to accept and recently has been busy documenting the lighting rehearsals for the Living Images, i.e.Tableaux Vivants, to give Gudjonsdottir a preliminary idea of the compositions. He was also awarded the task of portraying the choir's soloists. Needless to say, he also has some ideas of his own. For example, he is currently experimenting on merging two portraits into one and has already done some attempts using images of himself and his father. Two facial halves merged into one against a black background. He believes this will be an excellent idea for portraying the Passion Play's two leading men: to either merge the faces of both leading men or to portray a single leading man both with his long hair and beard (during the Passion season) and without. Sebastian Schulte is 18 years old. One thing is for sure: we should stay tuned for more!
Text: Anne Fritsch
Photos: Sebastian Schulte, Lukas Schulte