Erick and Elliot Jiménez’s shadow figures are a portal into traditions and history
The twins-cum-creative-partners’ work is steeped in reference to religious imagery, creating a distinctive style and atmosphere.
- Yaya Azariah Clarke
- 12 September 2023
No matter how often we come across creative twins, we’re always bowled over by their synergy. In the case of first generation Cuban-American twins Erick and Elliot Jimenez, their harmony is most evident in their photographic practice, where their heritage and experience meet to make tender portraits.
Erick and Elliot haven’t always worked as a creative duo, but after a few years of pursuing independent careers they started to see it as a natural progression. In their teens, during the heyday of Myspace, they began by taking pictures of their friends’ profiles and local brands in and around their hometown in Miami. “We were both taking a high school photography course at the time, and from that point on we’ve never been able to let go,” they tell us.
With a journey that kickstarted in the fashion and advertising industry, the adorning and striking elements of their work have never been lost. Their subjects often have a stature and costume reminiscent of figures in the Western art canon and the distinct atmosphere of each photograph contributes to the striking nature of fashion photography. “It always felt like a seamless fit for us, and this medium has given us the incredible opportunity to effortlessly navigate between both of these creative realms,” they add.
After living in New York for the past five years, the twins recently marked their first solo exhibition in the city at Photofairs New York. Titled Abre Camino/ Open The Way, the show culminated seventeen large format photographs in their signature style of shadow figures. One of their latest pieces (also named Abre Camino/ Open The Way) is a visual interpretation of the deity Elegguá found in the Lucumí tradition – a religious tradition stemming from Yoruba beliefs, rituals and practices and developed in Cuba among the Afro-Cuban people. “Our intention isn’t just to invite people into our realm of Lucumí but also into our own world,” they tell us.
Erick and Elliot’s style is particularly distinctive; the subjects remain anonymous as only the eyes come to the fore, acting as a window into the soul of the characters. “We’ve stripped away any distinctive features that might give away the person’s identity, ensuring that anyone can relate to and see themselves within our creations,” they tell us. “Our aim is to pull viewers in with a personal connection, you don’t need to know about Lucumí or us to appreciate the work. It’s a place where the allure of anonymity becomes a powerful force,” they add.
All in all, Erick and Elliot have created a unique world that has sprung from years of exposure to imagery, from the Catholic church’s stained glass windows and iconic statues, to photographic works that they would find in books and online. Now, as creators, they aim to give the sense of a painting existing behind every photograph they take. “We experiment with various techniques, manipulating exposure times, staging and body paint to reinforce the concept of merging photography with painting,” they say. The feeling of a constructed world of mystery and symbolism is hard to miss, and it’s one that they not only hold as twins, but as a duo fusing styles of art, history and perspectives that are often seen as being worlds apart.
Gallery(Copyright © Erick and Elliot Jiménez)
(Copyright © Erick and Elliot Jiménez)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.