Currently studying towards his BA in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales, it was Alex Colley’s series The Moonface & The Spidermonkey, exploring what it means to be a twin, that first caught our attention. A complex study, the series details the relationship between himself and his twin brother Harry, using numerous scientific methods, mixing new and archival imagery.
Research, no matter what the project, plays a major role in Alex’s practice. “I like discovering strange historical events, theories, philosophies and other information that otherwise I’d never come across,” he tells It’s Nice That. However, it’s these historical sources mixed with his fascination in personal narratives exploring his own family and past that makes Alex’s work distinctive. “My projects are often self-referential and involve me reinterpreting memories and archival material, examining them within the present,” he continues.
The Moonface & The Spidermonkey, therefore, exemplifies both facets of Alex’s practice. The series began when the photographer read an article about two monkeys that had been cloned in China. “For many scientists, this raised ethical concerns, as ultimately this was the closest we had ever come to human cloning,” Alex recalls. “The article sparked an idea and got me thinking about myself being a twin and how this related to cloning etc.”
Through his research, Alex discovered multiple case studies for how others have attempted to understand to twins. From the profound (twin methodology and Francis Galton’s fingerprints) to the dark (Josef Mengle’s experiments) and the downright incorrect (phrenology) studies, each expresses humankind’s obsession with understanding the effect being a twin has on oneself, and their aesthetic qualities ring true throughout the series.
While much of the imagery is geared towards expressing the physical comparisons between himself and his brother, the images making reference to phrenology and cranial measurements reference an invisible subject matter: personality. It’s here that the inclusion of archival imagery takes on another layer of meaning, exploring how memory moulds your personality.
Ultimately, the series is one of contrasts and comparisons, both a study of what it means to be a twin but also how your childhood and teenage years mould you as a person. It’s intimate and personal, exuding a certain warmth while investigating the insatiable human desire to understand why we are who we are.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.