this photo series of black twins is about sisterhood and stereotypes
New York-based photographer Miranda Barnes is challenging misconceptions about black girls and women through her endearing images.
In 22-year-old photographer Miranda Barnes' series Doubles, black girls and women pose with their twins. One photo features a woman—with almond eyes, rosy lips and a middle part—resting her chin on the bare shoulder of her equally radiant twin. Another captures two young girls tenderly embracing each other while looking out toward a garden; their natural hair partly braided and pulled into soft buns. The photos are clearly affectionate, but not just because of the sisters in them; the series was inspired by Miranda's own relationship with her grandmother, who was also a twin. "I was never able to photograph my grandmother and my great aunt together," says Miranda, "but this project is inspired by the few pictures we have of the of two of them." In one of those pictures, a yellowed print from 1978, her grandmother and great aunt smile at the camera while sharing a webbed lawn chair. The photo is subdued and sensitive, much like Miranda's contemporary film portraits, which focus on the bond between the twins in them. But Doubles, like her other work, is about more than family—it is her subtle challenge to stereotypes and misconceptions about women of color in the U.S. Her images emphasize the friendship and sisterhood among black women, who are often depicted in oversimplified ways. "I hope this series is a reflection of black love and unity," Miranda says, "but most importantly, black womanhood."
How did the Black Lives Matter movement inspire you to start taking photographs?
I had been taking photographs before 2014, but it was definitely the catalyst for me to start moving towards the documentary or photojournalistic field. To know that I was photographing protests that could be talked about in years to come was thrilling. It's great to see how other young photographers I admire have also shifted their focus of work because of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What other artists do you admire who are presenting black people in more nuanced ways?
I recently came across Erica Deeman's Silhouettes series, which has me admiring her work in its entirety. I love all of Nakeya Brown's photographs and her take on the politics surrounding black women's hair. John Edmonds's latest photographs of black men and their du-rags has also been a body of work I've been following closely.
How did your grandmother inspire your Doubles series?
Inspiration for Doubles came from my nana, who was a twin, and passed during my sophomore year of high school. It was sudden, and we had an argument days before she passed. I think part of me doing this series was that I wanted to reconnect with her and change the last moments I shared with her while she was alive.
Who are the twins in your series? How do you find them?
The twins in Doubles all came from scouting in different ways. Friends of mine must have thought I was so weird because I would text them and ask, "Hey do you know any female black twins?" Most of the pairs came from those interactions. But I remember there being a lull of not finding twins at all. There was one point I was so frustrated that I spent a really long time scrolling through the hashtag #blacktwins on Instagram, in the off-chance I might find a pair in the NYC area. That led me to Kimberley and her daughters Sarae and Sarai. And then there were serendipitous moments on the subway, like meeting Tameika and her daughters Tory and Tyra. I remember it being the end of a long day on a packed D train, but I mustered up the courage to ask if she would ever let me take pictures of her girls. My favorite part about the entire process was seeing how excited the twins I photographed were about this project.
Why is it important to you to highlight themes of sisterhood in black communities?
Black women are constantly characterized with traits that are the opposite of sisterhood: anger, jealousy, resentment. I've often felt labeled as the black girl with a "bad attitude." These stereotypes not only have a lasting impact on how we are viewed publicly, but on our own self-images. It is important for me to highlight themes that challenge those stigmas.
Why do you think mainstream media depicts black women that way? And how can we change that?
It's not surprising that the depictions are so broad and stereotypical, especially when you look at how few jobs are held by black women involved in media, production, etc. Different perspectives will be continually needed if we want to progress out of those stereotypes.
Womanhood is a central focus of your work, but have you considered photographing male twins to highlight brotherhood? I think this would be just as important to see…
I 100-percent agree. I actually started photographing male twins at the beginning of this year and have shot four sets so far. I hope to be completed by the end of this year.
What other series are you working on?
I'm currently working on a series that focuses on the one percent. It's a branch-off of an older project titled Land of the Free, and indulges my fascination with the notion of the American Dream and what that means to different people.
What do you hope people think about when looking at your work? Or what do you hope to achieve?
When viewing my work, I hope people question what society and mainstream media tells them. I hope to achieve more awareness on those who are underrepresented.
Text Zio Baritaux
Photography courtesy and copyright Miranda Barnes