DOUBLES, DUALITIES, & DOPPELGÄNGERS
Artists: Roger Ballen, Janette Beckman, Elinor Carucci, Annabel Clark, Jodi Cobb, Kelli Connell, Eileen Cowin, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Rineke Dijkstra, Mike Disfarmer, Louis Faurer, Lynn Geesaman, Charles Harshberger, Cornelia Hediger, Colleen Kenyon, Kathleen Kenyon, Mary Ellen Mark, Sarah Moon, Christa Parravani, Martin Schoeller, Ruud van Empel, Hiroshi Watanabe, Carrie Will, and works by unknown photographers from the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Doubles, Dualities, and Doppelgängers features the work of classic and contemporary photographers who each, in their own way, explore both the exterior appearance and examine the intensely personal psychology of being a twin.
As a subject that continues to resonate with both photographers and the public alike, identical twins connote both a physical and psychological duality and balance, but have also been regarded as curiosities or freaks. The phenomenon of exact doubles existing in nature has long been researched by scientists as an opportunity to begin untangling questions about heredity and environmental factors in determining the people we become.
The concept of “nature versus nurture” seems embodied in twinship: How can identical twins with virtually identical DNA be so different in personality or temperament? Conversely, like the extreme case of ‘the Jim twins” (1), how can identical twins whom have been separated by birth still have so much in common?
Photography is a particularly potent catalyst for this conversation. The camera has often been seen as a mirror to the outside world, creating a more-or-less exact copy of reality. Since the advent of the medium, there has been a photographic fascination with twins. The unnerving repetition of an individual presence within the frame evinces photography’s voyeuristic nature. A number of the works in this exhibition possess a certain assumption that the intended audience shares the photographer’s desire to stare and compare.
Conversely, that impulse has also been subverted and consciously implemented to mine a deeper understanding of the human psyche. Utilizing the visual spectacle of the double, photographers have appropriated the concept of a twin to create a paradigm ripe with metaphorical possibilities.
As a result, the exhibition Doubles, Dualities, and Doppelgängers presents photographers who are working from one of three different approaches:
People Photographing Twins focuses on photographs of twins, and offers a survey of the theme in both historical and contemporary practice as well as through a variety of photographic genres. Iconic portraits by Mike Disfarmer, Mary Ellen Mark and Roger Ballen ride the line between the spectacle of doubles and the intense personal interest and compassion that these photographers carry towards their subjects. Martin Schöeller’s larger-than-life portraits ask the viewer to compare and contrast between both the physical (dis)similarities and the underlying personalities of his subjects. Working within multiple genres of photography, Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s refined eye for fashion and formalism is shown alongside the well-known Louis Faurer 1948 image of twins in Times Square and opposite of a photojournalistic approach with Jodi Cobb’s story about two twin sisters, one of whom has undergone gender reassignment hormone therapy to transition from a female to a male. Also included in this section are works by Janette Beckman, Elinor Carucci, Annabel Clark, Rineke Dijkstra, Charles Harshberger, Sarah Moon, and Hiroshi Watanabe, as well as works by several unknown photographers.
Twins Photographing Twins features photographs created by and of twins, whose imagery truly expands our understanding of self-portraiture. On view is a piece from an early project by Lynn Geesaman, an artist known primarily for her landscape imagery, that was made possible by access to the University of Minnesota twin study led by Thomas Bouchard in which she participated. Her image is a poignant portrayal of twins who were born out of wedlock in Germany, raised without knowledge of each other and reunited years later. Eileen Cowin, Christa Parravani, and Carrie Will all probe the psychology of twinhood by staging or documenting lived moments between themselves and their twin sisters, using the connotation of the double to explore dramatic narratives within their strikingly intimate and/or at times contested relationship. Colleen Kenyon and Kathleen Kenyon’s (CPW’s longtime Directors from 1981-2003) interpretive works mine practices of photography and photo collage, respectively, whether in camera or by hand and divulge. Their distinct but mutual artistic practices reveal the intensity of the intimate connection between twins and the doubled meaning for them as artists. As Kathleen notes in her artist statement, “(I) always [had] a doppelgänger in my art”.
Twinning: Dualities as Metaphorpresents works in which the concept of “twinning” is used for the purpose of metaphysical and psychological explorations. Though not twins themselves, Kelli Connell, Cornelia Hediger and Ruud van Empel each, in their own way, use the camera and the computer as a tool in constructing a believable reality that questions our expectations of representation, identity, and exposes the multiplicity of the single self. Also featured in Twinning: Dualities as Metaphor are works by several unknown photographers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson, which depict some early instances of “twinning” in photography, wherein the same individual appears twice in one frame. These images were accomplished by using combination printing (2) which is the process of joining together multiple negatives to form a single image. It was a process that was used by proponents of the Pictorialist (3) movement in photography and was a precursor of photomontage (and one can say, Photoshop).
Though not featured in this exhibition, Diane Arbus’ infamous photograph Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967 (which many indirectly encountered through its reference in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining) serves in many ways as the exhibition’s emblematic icon. Her biographer, Patricia Bosworth, wrote that “she was involved in the question of identity. Who am I and who are you? The twin image expresses the crux of that vision: normality in freakishness and freakishness in normality”.
The photographers’ motives for creating their respective images span a wildly diverse range of approaches. Some of the artists approach the subject through the perspective of anthropologists, social documentarians, photojournalists, poets, and scientists, while others are motivated by their personal connections as parents or siblings. Collectively the works featured in the exhibition Doubles, Dualities, and Doppelgängers proffers questions of identity, individuality, and the (in)appropriate nature of the gaze found within photographs of twins – a most enduring subject for photographers.
Akemi Hiatt & Ariel Shanberg, July 2012
The Center for Photography at Woodstock
Identical twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springer were separated at birth when they were four weeks old and each was adopted by a different family. They were raised without any knowledge or contact with the other but were reunited at age 39 and participated together in the University of Minnesota twin study led by Dr. Thomas Bouchard. The findings were uncanny: both brothers had been married two times, first to women named Linda and second to women named Betty, both had named their childhood pet dog “Toy”, each drove a light blue Chevrolet to the same beach in Florida for family vacations, they drank the same brand of beer and smoked the same Salem cigarettes, and one Jim named his son “James Allan”, while the other named his son “James Alan”.
2 One of Henry Peach Robinson’s most well known image, Fading Away, is an example of combination printing, which Robinson learnt from Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (1813-1875). Five different negatives were used to make one complete print The photograph depicts a girl dying of consumption, and was controversial since while it was exhibited widely, with many believing it was not a suitable subject for photography.
3 Pictorialism is an approach to photography that emphasizes beauty of subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the documentation of reality. The Pictorialist perspective was born in the late 1860s and held sway through the first decade of the 20th century. It approached the camera as a tool that, like the paintbrush and chisel, could be used to make an artistic statement that had aesthetic value and could be linked to artistic expression.
CPW would like to thank the following people, whose support has helped make this exhibition possible: the artists, Elizabeth J. Anderson, Aperture Foundation, Howard Greenberg Gallery, Foley Gallery, Robert Flynn Johnson, Klompching Gallery, Staley Wise Gallery, Stux Gallery, David Winter & Winter Works on Paper, Sasha Wolf Gallery, Tim B. Wride, and private collectors.
To view the press release for Doubles, Dualities, and Doppelgängers, click here.