Whether it be magic or the causality of biology, twins are a genetic phenomenon that has fascinated photographers for generations. Inspired by the likes of Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark, NYC-based instant photographer Justin Aversano’s latest Polaroid project ‘Twin Flames’ aims to catalog intimate portraits of up to 100 sets of twins. Just as no two Polaroid pictures are ever exactly the same, Justin hopes that this project will shine a light on the underestimated uniqueness of each twin he photographs – and offer insights into their secret worlds.
Who were the first twins you photographed, and why?
The concept for the project was conceived at a Polaroid-themed gallery exhibition ‘EQUIPOISE’ which I co-hosted in February last year with another photographer, Phil V. During the event a mystical pair of twins caught my eye. Alixandra and Gillian were wearing denim jackets covered in pins and patches from local artists such as Frank Ape. I asked the sisters if I could shoot their photo, and once I pressed the shutter I knew this was going to be my next project. Twins.
What is it like to work with twins as models, from a visual perspective?
It’s fun to work with twins as everything is doubled. I try to find harmony in the frame by creating a balance between the individuals, as well as searching for juxtaposition within their environment.
It looks like you work with both fraternal and identical twins. Was this an original intention of the project, or did it come up later?
Indeed. From the beginning of the project, in late May last year, I was open to the idea of showing as many apparitions and forms that exist in twindom as possible. I’m still on the hunt for Siamese twins, triplets, or more!
What are a few things that have surprised you so far about working with models who are also siblings?
The surprising thing is that every time I work with a different set of twins, I learn something new. Whether it be an anecdote about twin mythology itself, what it telekinetically feels like to be a twin, or why they love being a twin. I feel incredibly grateful to my subjects for sharing these insights with me.
Do you see this project as a collaboration with the subjects, or is there a specific vision you bring to each session?
I am interested in preserving the authenticity of how an aesthetic image and a nostalgic moment are created simultaneously, but this project is a collaboration with all the twins. I created it for them and I am simply the vessel that the project is being manifested through. The only condition I have when photographing twins is that they choose the location that best represents them as siblings and they choose what to wear. I encourage the twins to be themselves and be photographed in a space that they are deeply familiar with.
Tell us a bit about your decision to incorporate Polaroid images as part of the series.
Polaroid was unconsciously incorporated into the twin series due to my process of using multiple film cameras. On a twin shoot, I use a large format 4×5, medium format 6×6, and the mighty Polaroid camera. Polaroid is a part of my vision, and I’ve been shooting Polaroid photographs my entire artistic career. There is something magical about the simplicity and instantaneous nature of the film that I gravitate towards.
How do you find the subjects you shoot? Is it through personal referrals only?
We usually find each other. At the start, I met the first set, and from there they knew other twins that I should shoot and introduced me to them. After posting a few twin photoshoots on social media, twins started contacting me. Once friends and family saw what I was doing they started searching for twins for me to shoot too. I am grateful for this loving energy that people are willing to share for the sake of art. I am open to chance, referrals, and am willing to travel the world to complete this project!
The series so far has an artful aesthetic, but there are documentarian aspects about it as well. What do you hope people see when they look at your images?
I pray that people can see the light, and feel it.
Are there any twins, in particular, you would love to have involved?
Ideally, it would be cool to photograph celebrities, but realistically the remaining 55 sets of twins I would like to have involved would come from all around the globe, and all walks of life. The most important thing is that they truly appreciate creating art and building community.
Follow Justin’s progress and see more of his photos at http://www.justinaversano.com/twinflames
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