• 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 came back in summer of 2012 to work online and latterly as Print Editor, before leaving in May 2015.

Most Recent: Photography View Archive

  1. Julie-hascoet-itsnicethat-list

    Made lunch plans for today? I’d cancel them, if I were you, and instead dedicate an hour at midday to perusing the brand new issue of Accent Magazine. A biannual photography journal compiled by Lydia Garnett and Lucy Nurnberg, issue #9 of Accent Magazine showcases Julie Hascoët’s series Battre la Campagne – a collection images documenting the free-party movement which began almost 30 years ago, and which “was spearheaded by British music collective Spiral Tribe,” Julie explains. “In the early 90s, the culture grew steadily from its birthplace in southern England to Europe and North America, attracting travellers, nomads and free spirits along from all around the world.

  2. Karine_laval_the_pool_int_list

    There’s nothing quite like the first dip of summer in an outdoor swimming pool with the undulating waves lapping against your shins as you sit anchored to the tiled side. Capturing this shared experience is French photographer Karine Laval with her series The Pool, taken at swimming pools throughout Europe. The initial draw for Karine was the idea that swimming pools and beach resorts are a combination of the natural and the artificial: “They represent a dominant theme of modern life in our culture and mix the natural element of water with the culture and social element of a manmade environment,” she explains.

  3. Burning_man_int_list

    For one week every year, Nevada’s windswept Black Rock Desert is descended upon by over 65,000 revellers for Burning Man festival. Something of a massive social experiment, the festival built around ideas of community, art, gift-giving and what is called “radical self-reliance” takes its name from the ritualistic burning of a towering wooden effigy on the Saturday night. In its simplest incarnation, Burning Man is a seven-day desert rave where, blinded by dust and no doubt half-delirious from the sun, festival-goers erect a makeshift city for a surreal week of madness. But it is also host to a number of strange and fantastic happenings and site-specific installations and sculpture, including a mechanised fire-breathing octopus, lofty wooden temples standing 15 metres tall and the eponymous Man himself.

  4. Alina_negoita_int_list

    Alina Negoita has been commissioned by AnOther, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and i-D, and one scroll through her website makes it clear why. Powerful black and white images of faces, movements and exchanges work together to create a captivating blend of fashion photography and documentary photography. “Although my background is in fashion photography – my goal is to subtly use a fashion approach in my work but with a much stronger sociopolitical impact drawn from human rights and subjects I am passionate about,” Alina explains.

  5. Vincent-chapters-int-list

    Vincent Chapters’ photographs are so firmly rooted in London life it’s almost hard to imagine his work in any other setting. A born and bred Londoner, Vincent’s casual pictures taken of friends soon turned into shooting anything and everything the city has to offer. Capturing both passers-by and friends, architecture and the medley of characters that make up some of the capital’s different scenes, he is carving out a niche with his particularly urbane style, and his fast-growing portfolio shows everything from rap battles to the eccentrics you might find on the underground.

  6. Pip-siam-int-list

    Pipatra Banpabutr has been photographing day-to-day life and street culture in his native Thailand for the last six years. Gripped by the way in which the country is being reshaped by western influence, the photographer has turned his fascination into a self-published personal project titled Siam So Chic. The vibrant series is mostly rooted in Bangkok but includes work shot all over the country, capturing feverish slices of metropolitan life in the tropics and pitting colourful street scenes against quieter moments at the barbershop or the zoo as old-world Thailand meets new.

  7. Jay-giampetro-itsnicethat-list

    Street photography has changed irrevocably from the days when photographers used to take to the streets clutching a small Leica camera, blacked out with gaffer tape, to steal shots of their unsuspecting subjects from the hip. These days iPhones have made everybody a photographer, which makes the ability to nail that shot – the one that captures the essence of a place and its inhabitants, all the more precious.

  8. Nan-goldin-4-int-list

    Last year Nan Goldin happened across a box of photographs taken in Boston in the early 70s when she was moving studios from the Bowery to Brooklyn. 50 of these images – which have remained largely unpublished until now – make up a new show at Guido Costa Projects in Turin. The exhibition looks back to Goldin’s Boston era as a turning point in her career, marking her first steps into the decade of work she coined The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

  9. Kitty_crowther_017-jake-green-its-nice-that-list

    Jake Green is an old chum of the site, and recently we’ve been enamoured with his look at London’s Evangelical churches. But it’s the church of illustration he’s been bowing down to recently, and all our prayers have been answered in the form of The Bookmaker’s Studio. The sweet little tome brings together beautiful photographs shot inside the studios of children’s illustrators, and features text by another old chum of It’s Nice That, James Cartwright. “It’s not often you get the chance to go and hang out with some of your heroes, so the images we’ve created capture our excitement at being allowed into these otherwise unseen spaces to witness such a variety of personalities, styles and techniques,” says Jake.

  10. Thomas-prior-itsnicethat-list

    Never having actually met him, I picture Thomas Prior as a particularly light-footed kind of person, able to jump from shadow to shadow something like a superhero in a Marvel comic does to get his shot. Why? If you have a browse of his newest body of work, a collection of images snapped on his recent travels in Asia, you’ll see; he seems to inhabit the quiet spaces that most people wouldn’t rest their eyes on for more than a split second, capturing photographs of situations so fleeting you wonder how he spotted them at all.

  11. Madlen-hirtentreu-trash-bin-its-nice-that-list

    They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For one Estonian photographer, trash isn’t just treasure, but a rich, and possibly stinky font of creative inspiration. Madlen Hirtentreu got in touch recently with a simple missive: “I usually capture images with [an] analog camera and lately started to photograph trash bins in the early mornings… have a look.” There’s not too much more to say about the project really, but have a look we did, and found something oddly compelling about these pictures of dustbins. Each overspilling vessel tells a story go what once was: the parties, the shared pizzas, the lunches grabbed on the go, the mop cast aside for a newer, shinier number. It’s rather poignant in a way, but rather comical too. Essentially though, it’s just pictures of bins, and there’s nothing really too wrong with that.

  12. We_want_more_itsnicethat_list

    The relationship between music and photography is a giddy and restless union, like a wild friendship where all the greatest adventures happen. The glamour, electricity and the emotion music photography can elicit is powerful and it’s why it resonates with so many of us. With the dawn of the digital age, the way we see these images has changed slightly and closed the gap between us and the stars we admire and it’s this progression that curator Diane Symth was keen to dissect when putting together We Want More: Image-making and music in the 21st Century, on now at The Photographers’ Gallery.

  13. Alexander-coggins-street-its-nice-that-list

    Alex Coggin’s no stranger to It’s Nice That, we’ve long been enamoured with his knack for casting a sci-fi light on domestic scenes and having very hot friends. Now, we’re celebrating his street photography, which demonstrates his skilled eye for finding the uncanny in the everyday, and for two women wearing matching all-over leopard print outfits. He manages to be there for those tiny moments that most would miss – the embarrassed little kid wishing he was somewhere else while his parents make a tourist spectacle of themselves, a woman’s turquoise trousers somehow making her seem part of a theme park’s architecture. The colours are great, the content bizarre and the execution coolly nonchalant, and we’re hooked.