September 11, 2020 – March 7, 2021

Over the summers of 2001 and 2002, Mary Ellen Mark (1940–2015) brought a team of assistants and a large-format Polaroid camera to Twinsburg, Ohio, for the annual Twins Days Festival.  The resulting series of extraordinary portraits captures, in astounding detail and clarity, the fascinating physical similarity of identical twins. Just as engaging are the subtle differences between each pair, confirming each twin’s individuality. Mark later interviewed many of her subjects over the phone. Amid a range of anecdotes and confessed frustrations, the intense bond shared between these special siblings is further illuminated in their personal statements.

Mark began working with the Polaroid 20 x 24 camera in 1998 and quickly realized the medium’s capacity to create impactful imagery. Offering the gratifying advantage of instantaneous results, this type of picture-taking frees the photographer from the technical considerations of the darkroom while still delivering consistent, high-quality prints that possess a sense of uniqueness not shared by photographs made from negatives. Mark’s Twins are colossal in comparison to traditional Polaroid prints one might take at a casual social gathering and rather than being candid, the images are carefully staged. With the enormous camera and artificial lighting greeting the sitters, they are visibly conscious of the photographic act, and pose and posture themselves as they want to be seen. With no context of place or mood provided by the background, the subjects themselves generate an emotional atmosphere.

In her lifetime, Mary Ellen Mark supplied photographs to a variety of major publishers, including Life, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, and the New York Times, as well as self-producing numerous projects like Twins.  Among her numerous awards is First Prize in the Arts for Twins from World Press Photo (2004) and a Lifetime Achievement Award from The George Eastman House (2014).

 

Accompanying these photographs are quotes from interviews Mark held following the 2001-2002 photo shoots, which appear in her book Twins, published by Aperture Foundation, Inc., 2003.

 

Read the full exhibition label text in English and Spanish.