Two of a Kind, curated by Sandrine Kerfante and published by Chronicle Books is a look at the complexity of doubles through contemporary photography. The striking cover image by Anaïs Kugel of two girls dressed alike, arms entwined around waists and facing away from the camera blends the figures into one by the combined braiding of their hair. The small silver metallic book is delicate, yet the powerful imagery defies delicacy and examines the delightful oddity of twos, as subject and composition.
In her introduction, Kerfante, a Parisian with a background in art, fashion and photography, states, “These shots are the witnesses to the great paradox of the double: one after another they beckon, offering both reconciliation and opposition. Looking at such images awakens identity angst while at the same time soothing it.”
Kerfante's curating isn't only about twins or double figures; she includes ethereal melancholy images in her discussion of pairs with works by Ákos Major and Darren Ankenman. Reflections, landscapes and street scenes also shape the complexity of Two of a Kind.
I experienced a wide range of emotion on viewing the book. At first I laughed, but also felt tranquil with a sense of mystery, joy, melancholy, belonging, and loneliness, often simultaneously. It’s rare that a photography book can drive emotions to such oppositional places. The connection throughout the book, minus the “double-take” effect, is the underlying beauty of the imagery.
Kerfante incorporates humorous images to break the spellbinding quality of more serious images, she gives us unlikely subjects as twos: two horse balloons, two butts, two birds, two boys covered in stickers, etc. The ordering and collecting of twos throughout the book is obsessive, an obsession one never wants to end. The sequencing of the photographs works brilliantly as it keeps the reader moving forward and curious about what else Kerfante could possibly include in the dissection of doubles.
My favorite image from the book is a narrative with a pair of lawn chairs seen by Rachel Rinehart. The simplicity of the two chairs in the backyard afternoon light just beyond an empty clothesline is at first ordinary; it could be in my own backyard. Shot from above, possibly from a neighboring backyard and in a square format, the framing personifies the white chairs; the square comes alive with shadowy triangles that send the eye bouncing from corner to corner without escape. The absence of human presence creates a feeling of desolation the rest of the scene supports, a discussion has taken place in these chairs causing separation - what were two are now more likely ones. The uncomfortable upright position of the chairs points to the tension of the event, the chairs themselves mark the history of a pairing where a conversation took place that ripped the couple apart.
Two of a Kind is short on words, but long on imagery and curatorial content in a beautiful contemporary format that I’m glad to include in my collection. And, at the reasonable price point of $16.95, I bought two! If you are interested in this topic and the images in the book, be sure to check out Kerfante’s blog on Tumbler twin-niwt, it’s quite an impressive collection of works from a very wide range of photography artists.