I’m Not a Look-Alike: Hundreds of Unrelated Doppelgängers Sit for François Brunelle’s Uncanny Portraits
Do we all have a double? Montréal-based photographer François Brunelle has been intrigued by that question since he began his I’m Not a Look-Alike series back in 1999, which brings together two unrelated people who resemble each other so much that they could be twins. He’s uncovered hundreds of doppelgängers around the world since and taken minimal, black-and-white portraits of approximately 250 pairs in 32 cities.
Brunelle’s now-massive collection is a testament to the mysterious and strange phenomenon that’s captivated humans for centuries, which has roots in paranormal lore and continues to be the subject matter of a number of horror films and sci-fi series. The search for a “twin stranger” has also prompted entire online databases dedicated to finding look-alikes through facial recognition software.
It’s this enduring fascination that’s garnered Brunelle considerable attention for the now decades-long project, which has also sparked tangential endeavors focused on finding doubles exclusively in Colombia and Spain. At the core of the series, though, is the idea that people, no matter their background, are fundamentally tethered to each other. “The face is the ultimate communication tool that we have to establish and maintain relationships between us as human beings. No wonder we are drawn to the face,” Brunelle shares.
Focused on lighting and angle, the uncanny portraits are devoid of color to highlight facial structures rather than variances in hair and skin. The subjects are not exact doubles— “A very perfect pair of look-alikes would be boring,” Brunelle says—and it’s easy to identify their similarities and differences as they pose in such close proximity. He explains:
Of course, the look-alikes are not the same. They look-alike, not much more. But then, that’s what fascinates me. That someone, out in this world is looking at himself in the mirror and seeing more or less the same thing that I am seeing in my own mirror. Which brings us down to the question: Who am I exactly? Am I what I see in my reflection or something else that cannot be defined and is invisible to the eyes, even my own?
Brunelle is currently working on a book and companion exhibition for the project, and you can follow updates on that and see more from the I’m Not a Look-Alike series on his site and Instagram. (via Kottke)
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