Reading the Landscape: 17


Could there be a more meaningless landscape or a duller photograph? Quite frankly I doubt it. Interestingly enough, it’s also the site of one of the most famous photographs ever taken. Even though I had always known that Diane Arbus’ iconic  Identical Twins, Roselle New Jersey, 1967 had been taken in my hometown shortly after I was born, I had never bothered to look up the location. After all, the background plays no part in the photograph. It could just as easily be called “Identical Twins Pretty Much Anywhere in the World.” Then one day I got curious. I Googled the photo and found out it had been taken at the Knights of Columbus. There’s only one Knights of Columbus Hall in Roselle, NJ. I doubt it’s changed very much in 48 years.

No one knows how Arbus learned about a small-town Christmas party in 1967 being held for local twins and triplets, but it is in keeping with her interest in how people are who they are. Isolating these seven-year-old girls against the wall of the Knights of Columbus hall in Roselle, New Jersey, and photographing them in her typically straightforward manner, Arbus ensured close attention would be paid to the details: the matching homemade dresses (which were green but appear black), the lace stockings bunched below the knees, and the barely discernible difference in each girl’s presentation before the camera. Such details variously belie and reinforce the uncanny suggestion of two thoroughly identical individuals.

3 thoughts on “Reading the Landscape: 17”

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