Monette & Mady
"Monette and Mady are identical twins. They have lived their whole life closely together and are, as they say, inseparable.
I used to see them on the streets of Paris near my house, but mainly on Sundays at our local fruit and vegetable market. I was instantly fascinated by their identical outfits and synchronized corporal language. They were quirky and beautiful and I only ever saw them in passing. A bit like the rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland”; as soon as I had spotted them, they were already gone.
Years later, when I finally approached them I was not surprised to discover that they often finish each other’s sentences and that they refer to themselves as "I" instead of "we".
Monette and Mady do not just share a close relationship as sisters, they have always lived together and they have made a profession out of their image. They act, model and dance as a couple. They are true performers and the city of Paris is their stage.
Even the most basic part of their performance; dressing identically, takes effort. Mady and Monette spend a lot of time shopping for original, often vintage outfits and jewelery and it's not always easy finding doubles when it doesn't come from a high street store. If they ever go out dressed in different outfits, people come up to them wondering why they are arguing, asking if they are ok. "Perhaps now it has become even more important for people to see us dressed identically than it is for us."
Neither Mady nor Monette have married or had children. They have long stopped celebrating their birthdays and they always eat the same kind of food in identical portions. Sometimes they don't quite understand why I want to document their everyday life. Its an interesting challenge to make them understand how fascinated I am by this symbiotic existence that is so natural to them.
These are the first few pictures of an ongoing project."
Maja Daniels: images of intimacy and identity by Rebecca McClelland
An all too familiar voice sings a message down the phone to me, she’s running late, can I wait by the gallery steps and look out for her.
I am struck by how similar we sound, sharing the exact same inflections of tone, choice of words, long pauses and nervous giggle. As she skips her way through the crowded gallery space, I am impressed at just how succinct our subconscious wardrobes are. We are wearing exact uniforms of black and brown knee high boots, grey jeans, black crop jacket, brown suede shoulder bag and dyed dark shoulder length unruly hair. The act of mimicry is overwhelming. Yet we haven’t even seen each other in over two years
Monozygotic or identical twins as we are known, develop from one zygote that splits and forms two embryos, sharing not just the womb but also DNA to create physically and genetically matching human beings. We belong to an increasingly common occurrence; twin pregnancies have increased over the last twenty years by 80% according to the US National Center for Health Statistics, with approximately 100 million twins worldwide.
Two of the most profound nuances of being an identical twin are the complex nature of identity and intimacy, the kind of intensity of which Maja Daniels captures so well in her series of portraits of identical twins Monette and Mady. The gentle physical closeness within the images, their coalescent bodies share a constant touch or whisper a secret word. Their matching outfits betray their analogous condition. We know that identity is created by both nature and nurture, genetically and environmentally. As humans we believe ourselves to be unique and aspire to gain control of our destiny. Our aim is to form deep personal relationships and make connections beyond a singular life. Yet as a twin, these destinies are resolved even before birth, you are given a life partner the moment you are born.
There is now insurmountable new evidence to suggest that nature and nurture are not alone in carving us out our identity. A cutting edge new scientific research called Epigenetic is investigating the influence of heredity by using identical twin research. Scientists have discovered that genes can actual modify them or change their expression, when subjected to external pressures like environment, stress, and diet. These genetic behavioral changes are passed on through birth and mean that future generations are predisposed to the genetic weaknesses and lifestyle choices of their forefathers.
Maja Daniels is a Swedish independent photographer currently based in London, UK.
Having studied journalism, sociology and photography, her work focuses on social documentary and portraiture with an emphasis on human relations in a western, contemporary environment. By using sociology as a frame of research and approach to her photographic work, she finds it a successful combination when trying to focus on the interaction between man and society.
Her recently completed long-term project “Into Oblivion” (about Alzheimer’s disease and the politics of ageing) was shortlisted for the 2010 PhotoVisura Grant for an outstanding personal photography project. The same project was exhibited at the Spanish photo festival Getxophoto in September 2011. Since the project’s completion she has been regularly invited by schools, independent organizations and galleries to talk about the project and about her approach to photography.
Daniels was also selected as one of the Magenta Foundations Flash Forward Emerging Photographers of 2011 and a picture from her recent series “Monette and Mady” was included in this years Taylor Wessing Portrait Price exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
She is regularly commissioned by the weekly and monthly press including New Statesman, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Intelligent Life, The Independent, Monocle Magazine, FT Magazine, Le Monde as well as humanitarian organisations and cultural institutions such as the UNICEF and the European Commission.
Daniels is currently represented by Picturetank in Paris.
The featured photographer for January 2012 was Maja Daniels