“She was involved in the question of identity. Who am I and who are you?”
— Biographer Patricia Bosworth on photographer Diane Arbus’ Identical Twins. Director Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”. Photographer Sandro Miller’s John Malkovich homage series.
Diane Arbus was known for her photographs of outsiders and people on the fringes of society. She often shot with a Rolleiflex medium format twin-lens reflex that provided a square aspect ratio and a waist-level viewfinder. The viewfinder allowed Arbus to connect with her subjects in ways that a standard eye-level viewfinder did not.
The twin image expresses the crux of that vision: normality in freakishness and the freakishness in normality.” Arbus’ inquiry into identity reaches a climax in this photograph with the noticeable tension between the girls’ being twins and individuals at the same time.
Their extreme closeness, the uniformity of their clothing and haircut underline their close bond while the facial expressions strongly emphasizes their individuality.
Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967
depicts two young twin sisters, Cathleen and Colleen Wade, standing side by side in matching corduroy dresses, white tights, and white headbands in their dark hair. Both stare into the camera, one slightly smiles and the other slightly frowns. The photo has been said to sum up Arbus’ vision. Biographer Patricia Bosworth said, “She was involved in the question of identity. Who am I and who are you?
Before fully becoming a film director Stanley Kubrick took this photo for a 1948 Look Magazine article on deaf children.
In Popular Culture The photo has also inspired other art. Most notably, it is said to be echoed in Stanley Kubrick’s famous 1980 surrealist horror film The Shining, which features sisters in similar dress and pose.
It is also one of a set of recreated iconic portraits through photographic history by the photographer Sandro Miller using John Malkovich as the actor in each portrait.