“There is a strong bond between us which means we always know what the other is thinking, feeling or even dreaming. Chloe once fell from the top of our bunk beds and broke her collarbone. She was in terrible pain but didn’t cry once but I couldn’t stop crying. It was as if her pain was transferred to me, I knew exactly how she was feeling.”
Admitting they are “best friends and sisters all rolled into one”, 13 year-old Chloe and Leah from London are just two of several pairs of peas in a pod that form the basis of documentary photographer Peter Zelewski’s latest foray into street portraiture. Entitled Alike But Not Alike, the brilliant series explores the similarities, differences, and irreplaceable bonds that exist between identical sets of twins.
Shot over a three-year period, the compelling portraits—taken against neutral backdrops to allow the viewer to focus on the subjects without being predisposed to potential social status or background—show the twins dressed alike, their facial expressions and poses alone allowing their individuality to shine. Encompassing twins of all ages, races, and sexes, the absorbing insight (especially perplexing to non-twins, and more so to those without siblings at all) documents the fun they have pretending to be one another and the sense of contentment they experience in knowing they’ll have a best friend for life.
From monozygotic twins Polly and Sophie, who have such indistinguishable DNA they can unlock each other’s iPhones, to Hermon and Heroda who moved from Eritrea to London 30 years ago when they became deaf at the same time, Zelewski captures both the singular emotional connection of twins, and the contradictions and complications of existing as one of two who are forever viewed as a whole. “The problem is that when we meet someone new they always see us as one and not as individuals”, reveal 14 year-olds Kira and Taya, whilst Vår and Ronja, 22, admit to the difficulty of meeting new people: “we have to trust them completely before we give of ourselves, but once we trust someone they will be a friend for life.”
Peter Zelewski’s series of astute insights into the lives of identical twins is currently on show at The Hoxton, Shoredtich, and follows on from the photographer’s first book, the Hoxton Mini Press published People of London, which featured 100 soul-searching portraits accompanied by insightful and (often painfully-) honest quotes. Confirming his position as one of London’s most frank and emotive photographers, Alike But Not Alike is a welcome addition to the American’s expanding portfolio.