Twins Text

So Much Unspoken So Little Revealed Albrecht Tübke’s ‚Twins‘

For those of us who grew up with no siblings or who experienced the sibling rivalry spawned by an age gap, there is always something enigmatic about identical twins. We are mildly envious of that intuitive empathy that seems to invisibly unite them, the unspoken conspiracy against the world that seems to permeate their relationship. We are also wary of course, of the tricks that they can play by trading places and fooling us, betraying any confidences we might have with them. There can often seem to be a real them and us schism here. Conversely, of course much of this may well be just down to myth and presumption on our part. Albrecht Tübke’s quiet and poignant series of C-prints titled ‚Twins‘ does nothing to dismiss the way identical twins are raditionally perceived, in fact, on the contrary, it seems to corroborate this perception.

These photographs taken against backdrops of neutral rural scenes give very little away as to the social status or backgrounds of these twins, they seem to conceal more than they reveal, and in this way are symptomatic of the stereotype. In fact there are subtle hints and signs of an innate defiance here, they are accustomed to being observed as novelties, and no matter how veiled that observation is, it divides, it segregates and it is intrusive, so they have probably all developed strategies to counter the invasive gaze of others. Needless to say no identical twins are truly identical and it seems to be the differences between these particular sets of twins that straight away engages the viewer. The complicity between these twins is not only to be detected
in their similar modes of dress, but also in their gaze. Their stance, their postures and their body sizes are all at variance, and this intrigues us, but their gazes, the ‚windows on their souls‘, the true reflections of their beings, seem to be in accord in each of these pairs of twins. These matter-of-fact, full face, full-length portraits in a style not dissimilar to that of Rineke Dijkstra or Helen van Meene, offer good PR for the ‚less is more‘ school of thought.

One of the hallmarks of Tübke’s work in his other portrait series such as ‚Youth‘ and ‚Citizens‘ has been the relaxed composure and openness of his subjects, they are totally compliant with, and unphased by the whole portraiture process, there seems to be a genuine empathy between photographer and subjects, but that cannot be said about the ‚Twins‘ series, these sessions, one feels, have been altogether more tense, a resonance of negotiation and compromise seems to reside here, sympathy seems to replace empathy. The age and sex of the different pairs varies, as if to emphasise that what you are witnessing here is not polarised by considerations of generation or gender but it is something symptomatic of the relationships of these twins and the way in which they confront the world. There are inherent dangers in generalising of course, but there is something happening in these photographs that seems to be echoed by each pair of twins, nothing overtly obvious, but so much is left unsaid, so much concealed. All this is underlain by a pervasive sense of melancholy, and resignation, it can’t be the difficulties that the populace of the old East Germany has experienced
during the past couple of decades (Tübke hails from Leipzig and works in what was East Germany), that are reflected here, for the subjects in his other series don’t seem to present this demeanour, but something is happening in the ‚chemistry‘ of these photo-sessions that polarises the mood that reigns here and perhaps that will always remain enigmatic and unfathomable. The mythical twins Castor and Pollux and Romulus and Remus all had their trials and tribulations so maybe they set the tone for aeons to come.

Roy Exley, writer and curator for photography, London