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Mary Ellen Mark: Twins (Aperture Monograph) Hardcover – June 15, 2005

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Documentarian Mark captured the late Mother Teresa working among the starving sick of Calcutta, and her portraits of Central American factory workers and the underclasses of Appalachia and U.S. inner cities have combined empathy and insight. Now Mark goes all Diane Arbus on us in her new book of twins shot in 20 x 24 black and white Polaroid format, stunningly reproduced. Shot during 2001 and 2002 "Twins Days" festivals in Twinsburg, Ohio, site of the annual U.S. convention for twins (and triplets), subjects were pursued and herded into a darkened tent built to Mark's specifications by a large crew. The book begins with a pair of young girls in what looks to be the bygone costumes of the Gish sisters in D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms, and the air of the antique and the unsettling rarely lets up. One elderly man stands before the camera holding a photograph of his late twin brother. A father in cop uniform drags a wagon built up into jail bars to carry his twin daughters, dressed in cute jailbird costumes. The same dad in Hawaiian tourist garb exhibits the same girls the following year as hula maidens in leis and grass skirts. Mark's tent-show approach inevitably leads to questions of exploitation and voyeurism. She attempts to let her subjects have their own voice, printing brief excerpts from a thousand pages of transcribed interviews. This section disappoints, as we learn little about the individual twins other than that some of them share private languages and others like to use their twinness for pranks (we learn that the 27-year-old men she photographed in matching boxer shorts like to trick girls into having sex with both). Mark, queen of female photographers, has a steady following, and this new project deepens her legend in disturbing ways.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Perhaps the most influential and wonderfully unsettling female photographer of all time, Mary Ellen Mark does a double take in Twins." -- Elissa Schappell --Vanity Fair

"In Mark's often-stark black-and-white photographs, the misunderstood, the self-destructive, the unnoticed and the sidelined confront the viewer, dating the world to turn away but not begging for pity. Mark comes from a generation of photographers who believe cameras can be used as a force for change." -- Tyrone Beason --The Seattle Times

"Mary Ellen Mark's portraits of twins have to be seen to be believed." -- Russell Hart --American Photo

"Mark, queen of female photographers, has a steady following, and this new project deepens her legend in disturbing ways." --Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • Series: Aperture Monograph
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Aperture (June 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931788197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931788199
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 0.7 x 13.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Artist/author Mary Ellen Mark spent two consecutive years setting up a studio on the site of the Twinsburg, Ohio 'twin days' festival', inviting twins to be photographed: Twins provides a collection of startling images which succeed in presenting subtle differences as well as startling similarities between twins. The multicultural representation of twins as well as the inclusion of which twin is older by how many minutes makes these full-page black and white photos exceptional works of art and study.
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Format: Hardcover
To the ninety-eight percent of the population who is not a twin, we often are curious about how twins cope with being known as a pair. Despite being different people, they grow up always having each other to relate to. It forms a bond unlike any that typical siblings are able to form.

Mary Ellen Mark's fascination with twins has inspired a remarkable portrait series. Traveling to Twinsburg, Ohio, for their annual "Twins Day" festival allowed her to photograph hundreds of twins. In the two consecutive years Mark visited the festival she used a complex set-up for the seemingly simple aesthetic. Every detail is captured through the Polaroid 20x24 camera Mark used. Between the camera and dynamic lighting every wrinkle, toned muscle, body hair, and freckle is visible. Using the studio, all attention of the festival is lost. Instead the attention is given to the twins themselves. A thoughtful decision that emphasizes Marks pure interest in her subjects. The final pages of the book are dedicated to bits of conversation Mark collected after shooting the photographs. Each fragment from the conversations revels more about each pair connecting the viewer even more with every photograph.

As part of the festival, participants dress alike emphasizing their already very similar appearances. Their outfits give us a glimpse of the personality and lifestyle traits each set shares. It apparent that a majority of the twins are aware of the camera and Mark takes it a step further by posing several of the sets to accentuate their costumes and relationships. The only sense of individuality is provided through the facial expressions and stances of each twin. Even that allowance of distinction is not always utilized, leaving them looking entirely identical.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Haven't most of the rest of us all wondered at one time or another what it would be like to have a twin? It is amazing that two people can look so alike. And we can only imagine that there is a closeness there that most of us never experience in our lives.
Though a picture may not be able to get inside someone's mind, it can sure come close with the right artist and Mary Ellen Mark has an ability to see inside her subjects that is nearly unequaled. And that may be why I find these pictures of twins so compelling. Looking at these twins you cannot help but notice the similarities at first glance. And Mark's poses encourage this: symmetries and mirror images. But this is just a trick that lets her camera look beyond. The more you look the more the differences--wisps of hair, injuries old & new, the twist in a smile--jump out and are moving.
I am a big fan of photographic portraiture and Mark is an expert in the genre. In twins she has chosen a theme that plays to her strengths. I would encourage everyone who loves photography to take a look at her work. And once you've studied these pictures to your heart's content, take some time to peruse the excerpts from the subject interviews at the end of the book. It adds another dimension to what you've seen. All in all, this is a book to add to your art book collection.
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