“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.”
Chloe and Leah
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.
Duke and Joe
“I remember when we were very little and spent the night apart for the first time, I felt so lonely and I couldn’t stop crying. These days we are very different but also very alike. Joe is more flamboyant, more colourful than me. He loves makeup and wants to be a makeup artist one day. I love photography and prefer being behind the scenes with my camera. The best thing about being a twin is being able to talk comfortably with each other and never having to worry about being judged.”
Che and Leonie
“It has been tough for both of us. Our mother was an addict and our dad died of an overdose just weeks before we were born. He was only 16. We were placed in care from an early age and we had no one else but each other. I think this is what has made our bond so strong, we’ve never really had a mum or dad. We’ve been there for each other during the hardest times and we are still there for each other today.”
Tululah and Delila
“Delilah is my best friend and I am hers and we never want that to change, we never want to be without each other. I always feel more comfortable when we’re together. Watching television, doing each other’s hair and even sleeping in the same bed. When we fight it never lasts long because deep down we don’t like to be apart. People always ask what it’s like to be a twin but how can we answer that when we don’t know what it’s like NOT to be a twin!?”
Kira and Taya
“Our mum told us that when we were babies we used to communicate with each other without speaking, by making baby noises. Growing up we were so close that we never felt the need to have lots of friends. Being older we would love to have a best friend other than each other.”
Sharmeena and Ridhwana
“When you are young and moving from country to country making friends can be hard which I suppose has only strengthened the bond between us. If we moved to a new place and didn’t make friends, at least we had each other, the best friends we both could hope for.”
Edwina and Rebecca
“During a holiday to Italy I became very ill and was hospitalised. My sister came to visit me in the evening but when she was leaving, my Doctor (who had been looking after me) saw her exiting the hospital and he went crazy, shouting in Italian and angrily gesticulating. He didn’t realise I had a twin and assumed I was discharging myself! The language barrier prevented Mum from explaining so she had to physically bring him back to the ward and show him that we were twins.”
Bill and Toby
“We have been very close all our lives and our personalities are quite similar. Sometimes we will even think about the same idea at the same time, talk about it to each other, then realise that we both thought of it. This similarity is much stronger than our appearance because it shows how truly alike we are on the inside as well as the outside.”
Devontay and Dijon
“When we were kids I wanted to be an astronomer and Dijon wanted to be a lawyer but we are now studying business management. We love being twins. Nothing beats having your best friend and brother all rolled into one. The only downside is that when we are apart friends are always mistakenly approaching the ‘other’ twin which gets really embarrassing when you don’t know who they are.”