Ones to Watch 2018: photographers Jalan and Jibril Durimel
It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch shines a light on 12 emerging talents who we think will conquer the creative world in 2018. From a global pool of creative talent, we have chosen our 2018 Ones To Watch for their ability to consistently produce inspiring and engaging work across a diverse range of disciplines. Each of our selections continually pushes the boundaries of what is possible with their creative output. Ones to Watch 2018 is supported by Uniqlo.
On calling the Durimel brothers for this interview, I’m surprised to discover that they’re not together. From the outside, particularly in the corner of the internet they inhabit, it often seems as if the 24-year old photographers and twin brothers Jalan and Jibril live as one. Closer than siblings, their bond has fascinated the creative world. So what’s changed?
“Last year we were reading a lot of books about codependency,” Jibril begins. “We’ve grown up together — we’ve always been together. When we moved to Los Angeles was when we sort of became adults in our lives, and we also lived in a one bedroom apartment so we got a lot closer. We work creatively perfectly, we have a great relationship with each other, but it did get a bit dramatic.” Researching relationship dynamics helped the pair to realise that their fraternal dependency was maybe “not the greatest thing for a relationship,” Jibril laughs. And so, for now at least, “we’ve realised it is important for us to find our own sort of paths”.
Durimel Brothers: Double Magazine, styled by Emilie Kareh, hair by Ramsell Martinez, make-up by Alexa Hernandez
Durimel Brothers: personal work, shot and styled by the Durimel Brothers
Jalan and Jibril’s parents are from the Guadeloupe but the twins were born in Paris. After moving to Miami at the age of four, they then travelled to the Caribbean island of St Maarten before moving on to Los Angeles to study film. To those who grew up in just one place or country their childhood appears enviably multicultural, but the Durimel brothers found it difficult to continuously adapt to their changing surroundings. “Our life has developed in a really abrupt way,” Jalan explains. “Things changed really quickly and in the moment they seemed so unfortunate and we felt like our life was being torn apart.” The brothers are “thankful for everything” they experienced as children, Jalan adds, but it has left them with a feeling of lost identity. “It’s been great to diversify the work that we’re interested in making, but it’s also kind of scary that I’ll relate to people a little bit, but not fully,” he considers. “I feel like right now, we’re trying to figure out our identity in a sense. As much as we’ve lived in the Caribbean I would never cling onto the identity of ‘we’re Caribbean kids’. We lived in Miami, as well but we’ve never been kids from Florida like that, or Parisians either. It leaves you empty handed in a way like, man, what is my story about?”
Immersed in a quest for identity, Jamal and Jibril have already taken their first steps down new, independent avenues. The act of living separately has allowed their relationship to become “more fruitful and resourceful, even with the art we create”. “Jalan and I did get in each other’s way in terms of the way we executed these ideas,” Jibril says. “I don’t even think it’s about separating completely, but it’s about learning how somebody has an idea and a seed. If he wants to make that seed grow, we should help each other to water that seed.”
Despite an active effort to take time apart from one another, the Durimel brothers generally end up back together. “We’ve grown up to be more spiritual in the art that we create and we’ve been noticing that as much time we spend apart, it’s kind of insane the synchronicity that we have,” says Jalan. Whether in creative references or in their daily routines, Jalan and Jibril share an unshakeable togetherness. “We grow apart from each other and then we’ll get back together and we’ve almost had the same exact day,” Jalan explains. “Once I went and ate this apple pie and ice-cream, and he randomly made an apple pie and ate it with ice-cream. There’s always these magical moments where it seems like the universe is telling us to spend more time apart, but then to also be apart but together at the same time. It’s interesting, it’s like the more we are apart, the more we are together in a sense.”
To outsiders, anecdotes like these can be clocked up as coincidence, but for Jalan and Jibril, it’s something of a breakthrough. “It’s amazing because we get to have that dialogue,” adds Jibril. “I feel like right now it’s sort of in this half and half thing where there’s definitely people that Jalan finds and gets super interested in, and then there’s someone different who I’ll find and I’m super interested in. Then, we get to come back and talk about them. Interestingly enough, we’ll both be into those people, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we both started being inspired by those people together.”
The sweeping label “cinematic” glues itself to the Durimel brother’s scenic, character-populated images. “I guess we started off in cinema and the movies that strike the most are — I’ve learned the exact meaning of this word recently — melodramatic,” explains Jalan. “It’s more movies that are blatantly theatrical, like really theatrical, things like Broadway where people spill out feelings, almost taking emotions as far as like Lord of the Rings or Titanic.” Watching these films as children, the pair picked upon a blockbuster movie tendency to feature plots “where each character is such a character, that you can’t even deny understanding that.” In the same way that films such as Titanic are easily digestible, the pair also note the works of Dr. Seuss as a key influence, “those books where everything spills over itself and are really clear for even kids to understand.”
It’s a quality that the Durimel brothers try into their own output. “We’re becoming more interested in being less vague about what it is that we’re making,” the pair explain. “We realise that there is this interest in the art world for art that is really poetic and hard to understand.” Another surprising influence comes from Jibril, who cites Albert Einstein and his belief that “if you can’t explain it to a toddler, you don’t really understand it.”
Jalan and Jibril’s shared portfolio of work is constantly changing as they purposefully journey down “a road less travelled.” “I read that book recently and the author talked about going towards uncertainty and that’s the way we’ve grown up definitely,” Jalan says. “We feel like the uncertain road is almost more of a comfort zone than a trip.” Their career has taken many different turning points, Wirth roots in a fashion blog they now describe as “really sort of cheesy”. Still, the blog taught the duo to “enjoy the field that it allows us as well”.
“So many times I feel like it might look like we wanted to play in the fashion game, or it might look like we want to get into the magazine world, but that was all just us trying to get into a place where we were given a platform to express ourselves,” Jalan says. For now though, the pair have taken a break from fashion-focused jobs after a difficult shoot last year that made them realise the only point of doing commercial work “is when it’s right for us”. Looking towards the future and everything they’ve learned through watching, reading and travelling, the Durimel brothers hope for their photographs to be viewed in an exhibition space, allowing them to “slowly get into the art-making process and making images with the same attention that a feature film would get,” explains Jibril. These future photographs will “definitely be theatrical with an actual narrative,” looking to “make images that talk in a sense, that almost need no words, that someone could see and completely understand the direction we’re going in.”
“In the simplest sense,” the Durimel brothers summarise, “Right now we’re just kind of in the practice of finding our practice and being more present and active in that sense. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be releasing more work, but we’ll be creating more, and that’s a good thing for us.”
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.