Delilah and Tullulah — 13 years old, Delilah older by two minutes.
Peter Zelewski is a London-based photographer whose striking portraits often capture intimate details that most might overlook at first glance.
His upcoming book Twins, published by Hoxton Mini Press, challenges this expertise by focusing on siblings who were born as identical twins. Each of Zelewski's portraits is accompanied by the twins’ own words on their relationships with each other, offering a unique perspective on what it’s like to grow up with someone identical to themselves.
Here, Zelewski shares with BuzzFeed News a selection of portraits and stories from the book, as well as his own perspectives on the special bonds that unite identical twins.
As a portrait photographer, I firmly believe that empathy, understanding, and communication is everything to the success of a great portrait. For me, it is impossible not to feel personally connected to every portrait I take, and this could not have been more true with my portraits of twins.
In the four years I have worked on the project I have met and photographed over 50 sets of twins — many who will now be friends for life.
Joe and Duke — 15 years old, Duke older by one minute.
Kira and Taya — 15 years old, Taya older by two minutes.
In the early days of the project I was more interested in the twins’ similarities than the differences between them. Perhaps it was my own obsessive tendencies, but I just loved the symmetry, balance, and overall harmony I was getting with these portraits and did my best to reenforce the likeness between the twins as much as possible.
But as the series progressed, it was the subtle differences that were becoming equally as interesting, which was very unexpected. One example is 15-year-old brothers Joe and Duke. Although they are identical twins, the brothers couldn’t be more different, both in their physical appearance and personalities.
By stripping down the background and photographing the boys in plain T-shirts, I was able to let their different personalities shine through, displaying their own unique identities. The portrait of Joe and Duke, which is one of my personal favorites from the series, proved to me that the differences in identical twins could be as exciting as the similarities.
Sharmeena and Ridhwana — 23 years old, Sharmeena older by two minutes.
Elson and Elton — 18 years old, Elson older by five minutes.
Some twins I met were as close as you can imagine, to the point of finding it very difficult to be separated at any one time and even sleeping in the same beds. Others were really no different from most non-twin siblings, arguing over things like pizza toppings and whose turn it was to clean their room.
Having said that, one thing that they did all have in common and all agreed upon was that they felt privileged being a twin and wouldn’t have it any other way. It was as if they all felt part of an elite club, a club they kindly and wholeheartedly welcomed me into. It is impossible to ignore the strong and almost intrinsic bond which invisibly links the twins together, forming this incredible and unbreakable union.
As a non-twin, I know it is a bond that only a twin can understand fully.
Chloe and Leah — 13 years old, Leah older by one minute.
Alan and Gary — 37 years old, Alan older by 20 minutes.
One of the overriding goals of the twins project was to explore the similarities as well as the differences between the siblings. To create continuity within the series, I selected common backgrounds and similar lighting/composition styles and chose to photograph all my subjects at similar times of the day.
Additionally, I asked, but never demanded, that all twins who participated in the project dress as identically as possible. The reason for this was that I wanted to bring out very subtle personality differences between the twins, such as interesting facial expressions or poses, which wouldn’t have been so obvious if the twins were dressed differently.
To my surprise, none of the twins whom I asked to take part in the project objected to dressing alike. In fact, the majority felt very comfortable doing so, and some I discovered even dressed alike on a daily basis.
Grace and Sophia — 6 years old, Grace older by one minute.
Hermon and Heroda — 35 years old, Hermon older by one minute.
For me, it was always that mysterious bond that connects the twins that I have found so intriguing. I distinctly remember a time in my grade school years when there were twin boys in my class, and being amazed by how enigmatic they were. They spent all their time together, dressing alike, talking alike, while the school authorities did their best to separate them whenever possible. This seemed to only make their bond stronger, and I’m sure there was also a certain amount of jealousy on my part to witness this partnership.
When I got into photography some years later my twins fascination surfaced again with the discovery of photographer Diane Arbus and her famous iconic portrait of twins Cathleen and Colleen Wade. The image was strong, powerful, intriguing, and also somewhat disturbing — the portrait fascinated me. I then discovered the work of August Sander, Mary Ellen Mark, and Roger Ballen, all of whom also took an iconic portrait of twins at some point in their careers. It became inevitable that, as my own twin fascination grew, it wouldn’t be long before I took my first portrait of twins.
Mickey and Reggie — 2 years old, Mickey older by two minutes.
For me, meeting the twins for this project eventually became just as important and exciting as the photography itself. I continually found myself moved and inspired by their stories of the challenges and joys they have experienced.
As I mentioned earlier, I felt as though I was being let into an elite club, and felt lucky to be invited in. Even with the project now complete, I’m only just able to comprehend how special and unique the twins’ relationships are. I really do hope that anyone who looks at these images and reads the quotes can feel a fraction of what I felt when I made these special portraits.
Of course, very few of us will ever be able to experience the twin bond fully, but hopefully, by trying to see things through my lens, we can learn to value our own partnerships just a little bit more.