…Diane Arbus committed suicide in her New York City apartment by ingesting barbiturates and then slitting her wrists. She was only 48. Most people are familiar with the famed photographer’s work, especially her photographs of “freaks,” but few know the stories behind those iconic images.
Today, we’ll take a look at the story behind this photo of identical twins.
Identical Twins depicts two young twin sisters, Cathleen and Colleen Wade, standing side by side in matching corduroy dresses, white tights, and white headbands in their dark hair. Both stare into the camera, one slightly smiles and the other slightly frowns. The photo has been said to sum up Arbus’ vision.
Biographer Patricia Bosworth said, “She was involved in the question of identity. Who am I and who are you? The twin image expresses the crux of that vision: normality in freakishness and the freakishness in normality.”Arbus’ inquiry into identity reaches a climax in this photograph with the noticeable tension between the girls’ being twins and individuals at the same time. Their extreme closeness, the uniformity of their clothing and haircut underline their close bond while the facial expressions strongly emphasise their individuality.
The twins were seven years old when Arbus spotted them at a Christmas party for twins and triplets. The twins’ father once said about the photo, “We thought it was the worst likeness of the twins we’d ever seen.”
…The photo has also inspired other art. Most notably, it is said to be echoed in Stanley Kubrick’s famous 1980 surrealist horror film The Shining, which features sisters in similar dress and pose.It is also briefly referenced in Harmony Korine’s Gummo and in an episode of the television seriesPsych: “The Old and The Restless.” In 2004, a print of the photo was sold at Sotheby’s in New York for $478,000.