• Daniels_maja_hero

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

Photography

Photographer Maja Daniels' wonderful Monette and Mady series explores our fascination with twins

Posted by James Cartwright,

There’s no arguing that identical twins are a fascinating quirk of the natural world. Given western society’s obsession with individuality, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we’re perturbed and challenged by the sight of two people who are physical facsimiles. Our fascination is compounded by the physical and mental unity that twins are rumoured to possess; as an isolated individual it’s hard to comprehend having a direct mental connection with any another being, much less one that looks identical to oneself.

Maja Daniels’ photographic series Monette and Mady, taps into this fascination with doubles, chronicling the lives of two ageing Parisian twins. Their day-to-day activities, though perfectly ordinary in theory, take on an entirely different dimension when undertaken by two identically-featured identically-dressed pensioners. So enthralled were we by the resulting images that we had to catch up with Maja to ask more.

  • Daniels_maja_01

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_02

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_03

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

How did you find the twins?

I used to see them on the streets and on Sundays at our local fruit and vegetable market in the neighbourhood where I used to live in Paris. I was instantly fascinated by their identical outfits and synchronised corporeal language. They always stood out from the crowd and I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. They were quirky and beautiful and I only ever saw them in passing, never interacting with someone or seated somewhere.

It took me a long time to approach them. Years actually. Their presence was brewing in the back of my mind while I was working on an Alzheimer’s project. That project made me increasingly aware of questions regarding ageing and the many stereotypes that are related to this. But Mady and Monette seemed completely indifferent to this in the playful way they carried themselves and stood out from the crowd. They didn’t seem to have an age.

When I finally approached them I found out that they had long stopped celebrating their birthdays and that they defy any pre-conceived notions related to growing old. I then thought that the twins could make an interesting project that could somehow comment on questions regarding ageing in today’s society a bit differently.

Do they naturally coordinate themselves or is that part of your input into the images?

No no, that is part of what they do. They are always completely synchronised in their ways. They have danced together since they were eight years old. They dance the waltz, the tango and contemporary jazz and as well as their physical coordination they often finish each other’s sentences and refer to themselves as “I” instead of “we”. They always eat the same food in the exact same portions and even follow the same daily routine.

What do they do when they’re not appearing in your photos?

Already familiar with acting and modelling – Monette and Mady have made appearances in French films such as Amelie de Montmartre and Paris Je T’Aime, danced in a George Michael video as well as posed for numerous adverts and art projects. They have worked with many big photographers and filmmakers such as Nick Knight, Bettina Rheims, Michael Thompson, Vee Spears and Jean Pierre Jeunet but it’s mainly for fashion and advertising. I guess that’s why my documentary approach came as a surprise to them.

  • Daniels_maja_04

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_05

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

Do you build up a relationship with your subjects when you’re photographing them or do you like to maintain a distance?

I think building a relationship that is based on trust is very important in the projects I shoot. Initially Mady and Monette didn’t quite understand why I was interested in documenting their everyday life. It turned out to be an interesting challenge for me to make them understand how fascinated I am by what seems so natural and mundane to them. Together we have entered a journey of getting to know each other and growing to trust each other. We are constantly negotiating what it is that we are doing together and although they enjoy the attention of being photographed, it took me a year to get them to agree to let me follow them a bit more intimately.

You took these photos in order to approach the subject of ageing. Why is this such an important issue to you?

I am fascinated by age and I think I have always been trying to resist rules related to age. I am also really interested in the concept of time and how this seems to rule our worlds.

All of my projects are rooted in and inspired by sociology. Since I am interested in documenting the western world it just so happened that I started considering the general lack of visual representations of issues related to older generations. This is obviously linked to our commercially driven, youth-obsessed culture; the breakdown of the family unit and so on. As much as these topics interest me, they also present me with challenges in how to make them visually appealing and original.

When taking on difficult subjects, a visually compelling image can lure you into taking a closer look and engage with the subject matter. Composition, colour and tone dictate my photography just as much as my dedication to the subject matter.

  • Daniels_maja_06

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_07

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_08

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_09

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_11

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

  • Daniels_maja_13

    Maja Daniels: Monette and Mady

Jc

Posted by James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our two editors. He oversees Printed Pages magazine and content wise has a special interest in graphic design and illustration. He also runs our online shop Company of Parrots and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Photography View Archive

  1. Dbglist

    We’ve posted before about how David Brandon Geeting creates striking images of seemingly ordinary objects and revitalises the age old still life. With these shiny new photographs, he bumps the beauty up to another level of aesthetic glee. Hyper-colourful, vibrant and sharp, these images are meticulously crafted compilations of – well – stuff. But looked at through David’s lens this stuff is seen in all its glory; never has a pepper looked so brilliantly, crunchily, juicily red, or a rubber glove so squeakily, summery yellow. This is a man who clearly delights in design – if I was a banana, I’d want David to take my picture.

  2. List

    I’m not sure how well Only Fools And Horses translates as a cultural reference point to our international readers; there’s something quintessentially British about the sitcom featuring a get-rich-quick ducker and diver in his (pre-trendy) Peckham flat. But young London-based photographer Nadia Lee Cohen took Del Boy’s now-iconic home – with its charming hodge-podge of faux sophisticated stylings – and used it as the backdrop for this slightly unsettling shoot. Nadia’s work has a very pronounced slick, shiny and colour-saturated aesthetic that fits this slightly odd narrative perfectly – this mysterious femme fatale seems at one moment confidently at home in Del Boy’s surroundings, at others slightly bewildered. It’s weird, and I love it.

  3. Boy7list

    Shot at his house in Brooklyn, New York, David Armstrong’s series 615 Jefferson Avenue creates an aura of mysticism around the young male models. Some are muscular, some are boyish, but they all seem strangely ethereal. They exist in a world apart from the everyday; free from work, from worries, from the washing-up. Armstrong’s apartment is a wonderland of sorts, filled with masks, gilded mirrors and flower wreaths. His “muse,” Boyd Holbrook, even has pixie pink hair (although I suspect this particular Peter Pan left Neverland quite some time ago). For you, dear reader, we’ve picked a selection of portraits which are free from bed sheet, ruff and top hat.

  4. Main

    Where is the limit of what the camera can capture? Can the paranormal be pictured? So asks Alexander Gehring’s series Messages from the Darkroom, exploring photography’s ability to portray paranormal phenomena.

  5. Main8

    With over 600,000 snap happy visitors a year, you can imagine that Elvis Presley’s infamous Graceland mansion is pretty well documented. But it takes someone truly special to photograph something famous and still make it seem brand new, which is why we’re glad that Hedi Slimane – lover of rock and roll, and young, good-looking, rebellious men – took a trip to Elvis’ Memphis home late last year and brought his camera along.

  6. Main

    Stripped of snow, Ettore Moni’s alpine landscapes are scarred by access roads, crisscrossing electricity wires and ski lift cables. The raw beauty of his scenes is interrupted by ugly concrete buildings, plastic fencing and piles of pipes. If Maria and the von Trapps came skipping over these mountains, the sound of music would hit a rather discordant note.

  7. List

    This time last year Sam Bradley had just moved up to London to concentrate on his fashion photography – which we have to say, he was pretty damn good at. This year he’s still busy working away on fashion editorials, including a lovely shoot for the latest Wonderland, but he’s been getting outside a lot more, shooting mountaineers, skateboarders and racing drivers in a style so crisp you feel almost able to reach out and touch the scenes he’s captured. I’ll admit a certain bias towards photographers working in nature – I go mad for a mountain view – but Sam’s managed to make even tedious, high-budget motorsports look exciting and unusual, for which he deserves an enormous amount of praise.

  8. List

    When Rapha launched their brand ten years ago they did it with an exhibition on cycling history and a book that documented some of the greatest stars and stories of competitive road racing. The book showed candid shots of legendary riders like Fausto Coppi hanging out in his pyjamas and Bernard Hinault in a grump on the train, exposing these famous gents out of the saddle, carrying on like normal human beings. To celbrate their tenth anniversary Rapha have re-printed and re-released the book (no long out of print) upping the print and finish quality in the process. The results, we think you’ll agree, look pretty spectacular!

  9. Main8

    Whether catching a glimpse of a funeral ceremony over a black-clad shoulder or seeing young boys play football in dappled sunlight, Noah Rabinowitz’s beautiful images truly make you feel like you’re observing something intimate, something special.

  10. Pino

    Dino Ignani spent the early 1980s in many a “discoteche o video-bar" capturing the “dark” wave. From hanging out in cafés and bars with artists in Rome, he began to follow these newcomers with big barnets and kohl a-plenty to music events and club nights. He would create an ad-hoc set, and invite everyone there to have their portrait taken. The result is an enormous gallery of 400 images, mostly black and white, wonderfully random and totally intriguing. Who are these people?

  11. List

    For an image maker whose craft relies on capturing light to take all of his photographs by moonlight might seem a little impertinent, but Alejandro Chaskielberg doesn’t seem to care about following any preconceived ideas. The Buenos Aires-born photographer has fully replaced lighting equipment with the natural environment by taking images by the light of the full moon. His technique comes as a breath of fresh air to those familiar with photographic projects which aim to muster sympathy for subjects living in underprivileged areas; this is something else else entirely.

  12. List

    Belgian photographer Wouter Van de Voorde started out as a painter in his homeland before discovering that photography offered him more of the creative freedom and opportunity for introspection than his original medium. Since taking up photography he’s exiled himself to Autralia where he uses his outsider status as a driver for creative expression, exploring the quirks and nuances of Australian culture and landscape in the hope of creating a sense of belonging through his work.

  13. List-2

    I’m sure there are plenty of documentary photographers for whom going to Brazil to capture the World Cup would be something of a dream, but as far as I’m concerned none of them even come close to the exceptional Jane Stockdale. After having her application to photograph the crowds watching the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow turned down three times, she decided to take matters into her own hands, and jumped on a plane to Brazil to shoot audiences there instead.