Seeing double

Jemma and Courtney Jemma and Courtney

Twins have always proved an interesting subject for the photographer as they offer a chance to visualise the notion of identity, self and other.

Caroline Briggs, a former colleague, dropped by the other day and told me about her latest project which explores this area through the use of double exposure. It's a novel approach.

Caroline is herself a twin, and it's an aspect of her own identity she has explored in previous work whilst studying at Saint Martins College, but this is the first time in such a direct manner.

"Like most twins, I hate being compared to my sister, and most other twin projects have that freak show quality of compare-and-contrast that leaves me cold," Caroline told me. "While I'm also interested in the physical similarities and differences between identical twins, I also want to explore identity and the emotional side of being one half of pair too.

"The battle between wanting to be alike, yet craving an identity separate from your real-life clone, is one I have lived. By creating a single portrait from two people poses questions about their relationship and their desire - or lack of desire - to live completely separate lives."

Peter and Norman Peter and Norman

Caroline's double exposure approach offers the viewer two levels on which to examine the photograph. There's the conundrum of trying to separate the two figures and finding a way to see both faces, plus there's the deeper exploration of their personalities. Of course, a photograph can't really capture much more than shape and form, but the choice of clothes, hair styles and even expression all create reactions within the viewer.

Sophie and Ella Sophie and Ella

Start Quote

Caroline and Kelly

I think I may seem little obsessed, but my relationship with my sister has been the biggest single influence on me and my life and has shaped who I am”

End Quote Caroline Briggs

"Younger twins are yet to form their own identities," Caroline said. "They often wear the same clothes chosen by their parents, but by the time we reach adulthood that all changes. The decisions the twins have made, and their life experiences, are more obvious in the portraits of older twins."

Of course Caroline could pose the twins, yet that's not part of the process preferring to offer little in the way of direction. Being a twin herself provides a degree of common ground.

Once the pictures are taken, then they are overlaid in post-production and it is then that the similarities in the faces are revealed. "Sometimes some features fit identically, other times their faces seem so different," she adds.

"I love hearing back from the twins I've shot as they seem so interested in the process and share their thoughts on which twin they 'see' most in the single image. In my photograph, for example, I see only my sister, as does she. It's interesting to think that in the way many twins often have one dominant personality; maybe one has a more dominant visual appearance...?"

The project is very much ongoing and Caroline is keen to hear from twins who might be interested in taking part. You can contact her via Twitter or via her website.

Pat and Pauline Pat and Pauline
Stuart and Tony Stuart and Tony
Victoria and Rachel Victoria and Rachel
Phil Coomes Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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