I remember when my pregnant bestie rang me in 1997 to tell me she was having twin boys. I'd just bought one gigantic and expensive Garfield stuffed toy dressed as a Chinese Emperor for what I imagined was her solo baby. According to the shop attendant it was the last one in the shop, probably the universe, so the twins would have to share. From that moment on I thought of them as a pair and bought them things in twos, including their first film cameras when they were four years old, and their first digital cameras when they were seven.
They were fraternal twins, but when they were little they were so very alike, especially from the back as they ran away. For me it was only as they got older, well past the toddler stage, that their differences became more apparent both in appearance and personality. They were the same but different and we spoke of them together in the same breath; calling them both by the same strange hyphenated combination of their names.
I did a birthday portrait of the boys when they turned ten. I had of course taken many photos of them over the years (as you can see) but ten seemed such a milestone that something more formal was called for. I put them on two Bali-style chairs in front of a wall at the farm and shot away until I got this:
In March of 2010 I shot the whole family together and it included this photo of the boys. They were twelve, on the verge of an age where they would begin to compete for space in the world and the attention of their family and peers as true individuals. What I see when I look at this photo is a shared moment of closeness such as can only be between siblings that shared a womb. I hear their mother's heart beating while they wait to be born.
And then suddenly they were thirteen; scary, hairy teenagers growing up way too fast (for their parents and me anyway) and ready to launch on an unsuspecting world. My bestie and I drank a lot of red wine that year. We still do.
When the boys turned sixteen in October of 2013 the Brashness and I were in Hawaii so we missed the annual birthday shot. We returned to bad news about my mother so everything in my life was put on hold, including my photography. A few days after mum's death I took my bestie and her family out on the beach near my family home for a portrait to remind myself of all the reasons that I had to keep on living.
This year has been a really special one for the boys. They are in senior school and turning seventeen; definitely individuals, almost independent, about to get their licenses to drive (aarrgh!) and choosing what steps they will take next to decide their futures. I'm not sure if their mother and I are relieved or have more reasons than ever to ring our hands and open another bottle of Jacob's Creek. So for their portraits this year, I asked the boys to help style their own individual shots, so we could see how their paths had diverged. It was a bit like herding cats but we got there in the end.
|October 2014 (image by Danny)|
I'd like to say it was just for their mother, or for the sake of comparison over the years. But secretly, it was for me. That shot has always been for me. Happy Birthday brothers, you make me as proud as if you were my own.