Public Gallery 2014

M Daniels

Playing Twins

Through my interest in documenting the contemporary western world, I started considering the general lack of visual representations of issues related to older generations. As I found myself in this process, I met Mady and Monette.

Monette and Mady are identical twins. They have lived their whole life closely together and are, as they say, inseparable. I first saw them on the streets of Paris and I was instantly fascinated by their identical outfits and synchronized corporal language. Quirky and beautiful, they stood out from any crowd. As I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, I remember thinking that they might not be real. When I 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”. Neither Mady nor Monette have married or had children and they always eat the same kind of food in identical portions.

Monette and Mady do not just share a close relationship as sisters; as a couple they act, model and dance together and the city of Paris is their main stage. If they ever go out dressed in different outfits, people stop and ask why they argue.

Since a great part of Mady and Monette’s lives is about performing, in front of cameras or on a stage as well as on the street, this project consists of a mix of staged and documentary images. The more staged photographs are alternated with pictures of the sisters interacting naturally as they go about their daily business. Since Mady and Monette are both eccentric yet very private people, this combination reflects their lives, particularly since it is not always obvious to tell the two approaches apart. This addition of fiction makes for a dreamy atmosphere, a bit like a mirage that reflects my initial impression of them. The streets of Paris make the perfect backdrop for such ambiguity to be played out, confusing us with its references to fashion, film and art. It makes the documenting of everyday events somewhat surreal.

Mady and Monette are indifferent to the many stereotypes that are related to aging. They have in fact long stopped celebrating their birthdays and they defy any pre-conceived notions related to growing old. This series is an intimate journal of their togetherness and as an alternative take on the complex issues that accompanies the notion of “aging” today; Mady and Monette invite us to look at old age in a new, playful and refreshing way.

Being born as an identical twin often raise questions about identity and intimacy. Most people search for a life-partner to share their life with and a big part of our identity is built around this condition. As we are confronted with the radically unique and viscerally embodied relationship of Mady and Monette, we are faced with feelings of fascination but also with distrust. This project operates in this borderland. As we enter the game orchestrated by the sisters, this series attempts to play with notions of identity as we ask ourselves the question “is that the same person twice?”.

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Maja Daniels’ photographic work focuses on human relations in a Western, contemporary environment. She uses sociology as a frame of research and approach to her self-initiated long-term personal projects.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the 2011 Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize and the 2013 Contour by Getty Portrait Prize. She was a participant in the 2012 World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and she was recently nominated for the 2013 Prix Pictet and the 2014 Foam Paul Huf Award.
Daniels’ photographs have been included in exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts (London), The National Portrait Gallery (London), Somerset House (London), Belfast Exposed (Belfast) and Getxophoto (Bilbao). In 2013 she had her first solo exhibition at Galerie Polka in Paris.

She has received bursaries to develop personal projects by the John Kobal Foundation and the Arts Council. Apart from her dedication to long-term personal projects she also collaborates with the weekly and monthly press and she is regularly invited by universities, independent organizations and insititutions to talk about her work and her approach to photography. She also collaborates with social scientists, using photography as a tool within academic research.

By combining photography and sociology, she is interested to engage with issues related to the body in association with notions such as self and identity. In September 2013 Maja completed a Masters degree in Sociology at Goldsmiths University in London, where she focused on studying photography as a form of mediation that can be used as a creative outlet for someone going through bodily transformations that involves a reconsideration of one’s self-image.