‘Twin’ denotes both union and separation, joining and parting. In Middle English ‘to twin’ something meant to split or divide it. ‘Twin’ was also used to describe joining, juxtaposing or combining into one. I have photographed and interviewed fifty-three sets of twins over four years (between 2004 and 2009).
The appearance of the twins and the communication between the twin pairs were the initial points of interest in this project. I searched for the differences so I could always tell each apart and call each person by his or her correct name. Do twins communicate more frequently, do they have more extra sensory communication between each other than other siblings or partnered couples, or are they just as close as other siblings?
Twins are defined as two offspring born simultaneously. Twins can be either monozygotic or dizygotic. Monozygotic (MZ) twins are identical and share 100 per cent of their DNA. Dizygotic (DZ) twins are fraternal and only share about 50 per cent of their DNA. Monozygotic twins can be conjoined or separate and form when one embryo splits into two separate embryos.
As well as identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twins, there are also identical mirror twins. Mirroring in MZ twins is not merely a superficial phenomenon, but a reflection of a biological polarisation. Biological polarisation in this context is a descriptive term emphasising the role of biological (physiological, biochemical or even genetic) versus psychological or environmental factors causing not only mirror body image but opposite tendencies in the development of personality, professional and sex orientation and, most importantly, the opposite presentation of pathology. I have three sets of mirror twins in my study.
As far as I know, the survey does not include any semi-identical twins. An example of semi-identical twins is a pair who are identical through their mother’s side but share only half their genes on their father’s side. They are the result of two sperm cells fusing with a single egg. The discovery of this way for twins to form is probably too recent for any of the twins included here to have been tested for this possibility.
This paper includes chapters examining the biology and the representation of twins. I also examine the mythology surrounding twins and use psychoanalytic theory as a way of understanding the idea of the double. Double Take also looks at the theory of the double, of simulacra.
The terms ‘copy’ and ‘model’ bind us to the world of representation and objective (re) production. A copy, no matter how many times removed or whether authentic or fake, is defined by the presence or absence of internal, essential relations of resemblance to a model. The simulacrum, on the other hand, bears only an external and deceptive resemblance to a putative model. The process of its production, its inner dynamism, is entirely different from that of its supposed model; its resemblance to it is merely a surface effect, an illusion. The double has become an inescapable element of modernity and, for others, its very definition. I look at the stories of individual twins to see what makes them different, what defines each individual twin. I found a fascinating microcosm of life in my study on twins and the meaning of the double.

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Image detail: Gary Ramage