Twins is the new photography book by the Detroit born, London based portrait and documentary photographer Peter Zelewski published by Hoxton Mini Press. I first became aware of Peter’s work when I saw one of his striking images (which was placed third) in the Taylor Wessing Portrait competition at the National Portrait Gallery back in 2015. That picture, together with many others, was subsequently published in Peter’s first book People of London (which is reviewed here).
Twins builds on the style of People of London by photographing people, mainly in urban street settings, but this time as sibling pairs, of all ages and ethnicities.
As in Peter’s previous book the photographs are all exquisitely composed. Even though every image follows the same format with a set of twins, dressed identically, looking straight into the camera, Peter has managed to make each photograph unique and oozing with the personality of the “sitters”. That, in my view, is the true “art” of a professional portrait photographer. Each image, as the introduction points out, manages to show the “indelible bond” that clearly exists between each set of twins.
Every photograph has a brief back story which simultaneously manages to make you amazed (Polly & Sophie whose DNA is so indistinguishable their fingerprints are almost identical); amused (Yasmin & Laila one of whom thought she was taking a photo of her sister but had accidentally reversed her phone and was taking a selfie); intrigued (Cristian & George who, when one of them proposed, had to sit down with his future wife to explain his brother would always take priority) and sad (Maria & Kate who both have anorexia which has “destroyed their lives”).
Whilst these back stories are all tremendous, as a portrait photographer myself, I felt the need to know more. Logistically how did Peter go about getting so many sets of twins to pose for him? How did he manage to get them wearing identical outfits and (in many cases) have identical hair styles? More than anything though, how did he make the time for such an amazing project – it took four years to make these 44 images?
In an ‘insta-age’ when it is so easy for everyone to post images of themselves or their friends online or for lookalike celebrities to bore us all with the minutiae of their everyday lives it is so refreshing to see portraits of real people who, by an accident of conception, have the good fortune to be inhabiting the world with a sibling who is identical but who together are unique. This is what true portrait photography should be about – offering an insight into someone else’s world without being gratuitous or voyeuristic but that make us celebrate one of the more amazing aspects of human kind.
Below are a a few images from Twins, all published with permission of the photographer.