Today is my birthday. Eddie asked me, as he has for the past twenty-five or so birthdays, “Gloria, what do you want for your birthday – the twins?” There was a time when he could have possibly afforded that gift for me. Not any more. A print of “Identical Twins” by Diane Arbus sold at auction recently for close to $500,000.
“Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J., 1967” is pretty much my favorite photograph of all time. Arbus made the picture at a Christmas party for local twins and triplets. No one is quite sure how she heard about the gathering, but a few parents agreed to let their children pose for her. She only shot six frames of these seven year old girls, whose names are Cathleen and Colleen.
"Somebody called me and told me the twins were on the cover of the Village Voice," their father Bob Wade said in an interview in 1972. "I told my wife, 'I didn't sign anything.' She said, 'Uh, I did.' "
"We thought it was the worst likeness of the twins we'd ever seen. I mean it resembles them, but we've always been baffled that she made them look ghostly. None of the other pictures we have of them looks anything like this."
The picture inspired me to make my own attempt at photographing identical twins. Ironically, one of the sets who answered my call for the project consisted of young women named Cathleen and Colleen, who are pictured below. You can see the rest of the project here.
Fun facts about Arbus’ “Identical Twins”:
-Their mother made the corduroy dresses they are wearing, which are actually green, not black.
-When Arbus mailed the family the release form, she also included an original print of the photo, which Bob Wade now refers to as the girls’ “401(k).”
-Arbus made a note about the photograph which suggested she thought the girls resembled her own sister, Renee.
-The photo is echoed in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining, which features twins in an identical pose.
-The girls grew up living rather conventional lives. Today they are both married, both working mothers and are still very close.
-It will always be that one birthday gift Eddie’s been meaning to get for me.