• 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. Stefaniemoshammer-int-main

    “Las Vegas is the strip club capital of the world,” says Stefanie Moshammer, an Austrian photographer whose recent project led her to the underbelly of Nevada’s shimmering city. Stefanie began work on a series called Vegas and She, in which she documents strippers, nightclubs, and various bits and bobs that represent Las Vegas culture: bright pink limos, dust trails, palm trees, and diving boards into sapphire pools.

  2. Neilbedfordgsj-classicfootballshirts-int-list

    All football fans have a fetishistic relationship with the shirts that runs deeper than simple affirmations of tribal loyalty. We obsess over the exact shades of colours, the detailing on the cuffs, and the stitching on the crest – and most of us can vividly remember how certain shirts smelled (is this getting weird?). Anyway a new project from the chaps over at The Green Soccer Journal celebrates this relationship between fan and jersey in a new series of photos shot by their long-term collaborator Neil Bedford. Occasionally we glimpse a club name or badge but this is more universal than that and the close-ups in particular speak to the intensity of our addictions.

  3. Andreaalquati-fukushima-3-int_copy

    Andrea Bonisoli Alquati has been researching and photographing the ecological effects of nuclear disasters since 2007. First, he was doing so in Chernobyl and since 2012 he’s photographed in Fukushima’s exclusion zone, where as part of his PhD research he assesses the health and condition of individual animals, populations and community dynamics in the area.

  4. Gaeanwoods-int-main

    Gaea Woods caught our eye the other day with the portraits she took of her friend Samantha, seemingly covered all over in Vaseline. A bit of research led us to finding out that Gaea is actually a photographer with a whole host of talents under her belt, particularly when it comes to shooting things really close-up. Gaea was born in rural northern California and now resides in LA, where she’s making her career as a photographer.

  5. Wailin-editorial-7-int_copy

    Photographer Wai Lin Tse’s portfolio balances dewy, sun-kissed babes with photographs of plants and chubby-cheeked kids. It’s quite the melting pot and can be seen in editorials for Lula, The Plant and Apartamento magazine. Lin’s photographs are impeccably-lit and somehow both poised and quite tongue-in-cheek. She seems equally comfortable shooting landscapes as she is people, perhaps partially down to the fact that she is based in both Stockholm and Barcelona and surely taking lots of exciting cross-continent road trips.

  6. _thom-atkinson-guy-the-gorilla_-natural-history-museum-int-list

    Removed from their cabinets, museum pieces take on a strange quality. Once the glass is gone, some of their mystique goes too; and they feel almost like everyday things to be used and touched, rather than alien relics to be admired. It’s this disorientating new quality that’s captured so beautifully in Thom Atkinson’s series Museums, showing pieces from the Wellcome Trust and National History Museum collections.

  7. List-adrian_skenderovic_down_the_river-15

    There’s something very peaceful, but slightly voyeuristic about Adrian Skenderovic’s series Down the River. The photographs show the bateaux-mouches tourist boats that gently cruise down the River Seine in Paris, but here the spectacle isn’t the Louvre or Notre Dame, but the tourists themselves. It really awakens our nosey nature seeing the little bald heads and bathing ladies from above, and creating our own narratives about what might be happening on these seemingly serene vessels, with the colours and perspective helping us float along with the subjects. Last time we posted about Adrian’s work it was to showcase his brilliant series of images of lonely basketball hoops, and it seems he has a knack for taking objects that feel familiar and totally shifting our take on them.

  8. Boyhood-interview-2-int_copy

    In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 25 years, and missed last night’s Oscars ceremony (congratulations Patricia!) Richard Linklater is an Austin-based filmmaker who until recently would have been best-known for coming of age classic Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy or School of Rock. That is, until the release of Boyhood.

  9. Yenertorun-int-list

    Yener Torun is a 32 year-old architect who has turned Istanbul into the geographical equivalent of Aladdin’s cave of wonders. Tucked away among the beautiful Ottoman and Byzantine architecture and the blue Bosphorus are a wealth of impossibly bright buildings dominated by geometric patterns, rainbow hues and funny architectural idiosyncrasies. And through his Instagram account, Yener has been slowly but steadily documenting it all.

  10. Charlotterutherford-fashed-4-int

    Charlotte Rutherford’s photography is fun, bright and tinged with humour and 1980s sass. Shooting editorial for the likes of Vice and Tank magazine and look-books for Lazy Oaf and Baby G, the self-taught photographer maintains an aesthetic that is both well-informed and original. She cites David LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles as major influences on her work, saying that they prove the encouraging dictum “OK cool, you can do like ANYTHING.” I couldn’t agree more.

  11. Hipgnosis-portraits-p193-int-list

    You can almost smell the creativity, hash and late late nights behind the images in Hipgnosis Portraits. Or perhaps that’s just the super-shiny, huge full-colour pages. Either way, the enormous tome from Thames & Hudson transports you into a world of surreal scenes formed of surreal characters, taking us into the archives of the Hipgnosis design agency that helped form the mythologies surrounding some of the biggest names in music in the 20th Century.

  12. Labadie-van-tour-pool-intlist

    Few things look quite as fun as floating about in a big blue pool, surrounded by those foam wiggly things right now. The moustachioed gent above, reclining in the water, was shot as part of photographic duo Labadie / Van Tour’s Pool series for a Vers Beton magazine feature about Rotterdam’s public swimming pools.

  13. Bgm-int-list

    Blair Getz Mezibov is the photographer responsible for taking men, mere mortal men, and transforming them into what are essenetially demi-gods. Case in point, here’s some of his refined editorial work for glossy magazines like GQ Style, Rollacoaster magazine and Out magazine, elevating models to immaculately poised and dapper gents caught mid-swing in a game of tennis, or perhaps leaning nonchalantly over the back of a director’s chair, looking like they’ve been carved from marble.