As tu vu ma soeur jumelle?
Have you seen my twin sister? So often I’ve pondered upon this question during my childhood years. For so long I believed I lost her in cod death or that she died in the womb. I asked my mum where my twin sister had gone. Her reply was ever the same as she assured me I never had one. This answer, however, never felt right to me.
Let’s pretend, I figured. I made up games we could play together. My invisible friend was my twin sister. Sometimes I bought the same dress twice or secretly brought a second cookie to school. It didn’t end there. I was a fan of the Olsen Twins. I imagined the plot of the movie The Parent Trap to be exactly what happened to me. I also made photo collages where my head was to be seen twice, as though my sister joined me in the picture.
I imagine this sounds a bit weird. It certainly did feel strange to me. Looking back upon it, I figured it might have been a reflection of the loneliness I felt at home. Like I wanted to fill an ever-present gap. This void somewhat disappeared when I went to boarding school. During those nine years, I lost the urge to make up a sister. This was probably because the twin sister of one of my dearest friends became my pen pall. And if we were to play a little theatre show, I would gladly shine in the role of the ‘twin sister’ - of course I would! Because of these little moments, the stuff I had made-up, somehow became part of my reality.
Growing up, I was forced to accept I would never actually have a twin. Adult life and fantasy worlds do not easily merge. My urge for twinship drifted to the back of my mind as I found peace in the idea that I would probably become a mother of twins. I convinced myself that this was how I’d be proving I was right all along. I am not a mother yet but I imagine having twins brings along a lot more of a hustle that being part of a duo. Maybe after all, I’d rather not?
When my boyfriend told me he was once supposed to be part of a twin, I was triggered to make these series. His mother was four months pregnant when she lost one of the foetuses. From then onwards he was on his own. To him, everything made sense when he learned about this fact. His story fascinated me tremendously and it touched me deeply. It appeared to be the exact opposite of what I experienced when I was little. I am one of those people who sees a sign in everything and all of a sudden it all came together. Not much later, I was certain: “I should use this in a photographic project.”
I wanted to make these series for myself and for the twin that never was but most of all to make sense of it all. In a way, this is a therapeutic endeavour to fill in the ‘missing years’. Tu vu ma soeur jumelle? was called into being.
As an artist I am fascinated by quantities. This is a recurring theme in my work as a choreographer and a photographer. The latter, however, was my medium of preference to look into my preoccupation for twinhood.
Something occurred to me - there already is a definite link to twins in my work. I often portray two women, placed in a setting of which the viewer could hardly distinguish ‘before’ and ‘after’. Both subjects are in the same position, kind of as if they were twins. It was only after finishing the first part of these specific series on twins that I realized I was dealing with this theme all along. The only difference up until now, was that their faces were never visible.
I contacted twins of all ages and met with plenty of challenges while shooting. I noticed my focus was different now. As mentioned above, faces are never the focal point in my work. They are even hardly ever visible, but because I wanted to stress the fact that these were actual twins, I forced myself to think as a portrait photographer. This was a completely different approach and still I wanted to remain true to my aesthetics. The result became a combination of both.
I spend lots of time talking to them laughing. Some were adorable - exactly as I imagined I would have been.
I listened to their stories and asked them all the cliché questions: ‘How does it feel to be a twin?’ ‘Which one of you is the most creative?’ ‘Do you trick teachers and friends by switching places?’ ‘Are you inseparable?’ ‘Can you sense it when the other one is down or in trouble?’ I tumbled into more of a docu-style of photographing. I certainly did take a lot less pictures than usual. Some pictures became spontaneous moments and others stayed closer to my conceptual work. After a while, the twin themselves started suggesting ideas.
At this point, I feel, the series are not finished. There are still a few twins I would like to work with but I decided on taking a break. I fell like a time to process things is needed. Up until now, the series helped me to consciously look at what I had been simply sensing for a long time. There is so much more to it, therefore it is important that this remains an on-going process.
I am happy to share this photographical work with the viewer because I am convinced that I am not the only one that has been whishing for a twin.