The chances of giving birth to identical twins is about one in 250 births or 0.45 percent. That number is raised to just 0.95 percent with fertility treatment. Because twins are so rare, most people do not understand what the twin experience is really all about.The Alike But Not Alike photo series by Peter Zelewski aims to give the public some insight into the lives of twins by “exploring the unique, idiosyncratic relationships between different sets of identical twins, all while questioning how identical they really are.”
Click through the gallery to see some of the striking portraits from Alike But Not Alike, and to learn more about the project.
“As a traditional street portraitist, my approach to photographing my subjects has always been pretty spontaneous, which consisted of simply approaching strangers on the streets and asking if I could take their portrait. In the early days of searching for twins to photograph, I used a very similar approach and was amazed by the amount of twins I met on a daily basis. All cooperated fully and were not only excited to be photographed, but also willing to share their most intimate stories with me and anecdotes about their lives as twins.”
The more he photographed twins, the more he began to develop an understanding of them. “Over time, I seemed to even develop a ‘twins’ radar’ and I could spot a set of twins on the street just by the way they looked and conducted themselves.” As the project grew and word spread, he began to be contacted by twins of all different ages and nationalities.
He photographed 50 sets of twins over the course of four years, with 44 sets featured in the book.
“Although I could have easily photographed twice that amount, I was always more concerned with the quality of the portraits over the quantity. To create continuity within the series, I selected common backgrounds and similar lighting/composition styles and chose to photograph all my subjects at similar times of the day.”
He “asked (but never demanded) that all twins who participated in the project dress as identical as possible.” He allowed the twins to choose their outfits for a key reason: “I wanted to bring out very subtle personality differences between the twins, such as an interesting facial expression or pose which wouldn’t have been so obvious if the twins were dressed differently. To my surprise, none of the twins who I asked to take part in the project objected to dressing alike.”
“In fact, the majority felt very comfortable doing so, and some I discovered even dressed alike on a daily basis.”
Zelewski’s photoshoots would last around 15 to 20 minutes, and subjects were told to “pose in a way which was most comfortable for them.”
Rather than seeing similarities between the photoshoots, Zelewski began to see the individuals shine through. “As my meetings with twins continued and the stories developed, I was left without any uncertainty that no two sets of twins were completely alike (both physically and mentally), and I started to see each and every one of them as the unique individuals they were.”
“Having said that, it is impossible to ignore the strong and almost intrinsic bond which invisibly links the twins together, forming this incredible and unbreakable union.”
“I have thought about it long and hard and have come to the conclusion that as a non-twin it is bond that only a twin can completely understand.”
Another common link between the shoots was the fun and upbeat moods. “I was fortunate to meet so many incredible characters, all who offered something unique and different to each portrait,” reflects the photographer. “All were very proud of being a twin and more than happy to contribute something of their own to my project. I really did feel as though I were being let into an elite club, and was very fortunate to be invited in.”
It’s this idea that Zelewski hopes people take away from the series. “Meeting the twins for this project was just as important and exciting as the photography itself. I continually found myself moved and inspired by their stories of the challenges and joys they’d experienced.”
He concludes, “Very few of us will ever be able to experience the twins bond fully, but hopefully we can learn to value our own partnerships just a little bit more.”
Keep scrolling to see more images from the series.