At the forefront of the proliferation of doubles

These days, photographer François Brunelle is very busy answering the incessant calls and emails from media around the world. And with good reason: the remarkable length of his work over the past two decades has enriched knowledge in the emerging field of epigenetics. and The press had his small part to play in this story…

Posted yesterday at 4pm

Sylvie St Jacques
special cooperation

In 2004, François Brunelle granted The press an interview about the new project that inhabited it. This freelance photographer was then tasked with the hilarious mission of photographing doppelgangers: people who neither knew Eve nor Adam, but who nonetheless shared undeniable physical resemblances. At the time, his goal was simply to take beautiful photos that might be listed in a kind of “Coffee Table” book. But fate had other plans for him…

On the day of our interview, he was receiving meteorologist Pascal Yiacouvakis and Jean-Marc Pilon, an educational advisor, at his Old Montreal studio. The two men had agreed to join the photographic collection doppelganger by Francois Brunelle.


François Brunelle, in the foreground, with meteorologist Pascal Yiacouvakis and his double Jean-Marc Pilon, 2004

Eighteen years later, François Brunelle has photographed more than 250 doubles in 30 cities around the world. His project has been the subject of a documentary film and several exhibitions. And now his work as an artist takes a scientific turn with the work of Dr.right Manel Esteller, Spanish researcher interested in DNA that could take shape thanks to his visual repertoire of doppelgangers.

“The article of The press gave the project a good wave. From that moment on we received several emails from people who wanted to point us to doubles. »

Doppelganger Spotter

In a study published in the journal at the end of August cell reportsThe Dright Manel Esteller revealed the results of his study, which used facial recognition to compare the DNA similarities of a group of twins to that of twins doppelganger photographed by François Brunelle.

The result of this analysis is disturbing: the researcher showed that the 16 doubles had more similar genes than the twins … where the doppelganger of “blood” were more similar, it was at the epigenome and microbiome level.

“The genetic factor brings them together, but epigenetics and the microbiome separate them,” wrote Manel Esteller.

In Madrid, François Brunelle met the D for the first timeright Eteller. Although he initially expressed some doubts, because above all he wanted to respect the privacy of his subjects, the photographer decided to trust this researcher who is a “superstar of science”.

On the way to the mirror

Talking to François Brunelle is like hearing an artist’s playful story with a child’s heart. He is the first to be surprised by the development of this look-alike hunt, which began with a true fascination with these beings who look alike but are not related by blood. He himself has been compared to Rowan Atkinson aka Mister Bean, even if he would have preferred to have the features of James Dean.

One thing led to another, his work was seen by the right people: a techno journalist in Los Angeles, young Catalan advertising wolves, New York journalist David Levine… A trajectory that propelled the project from Los Angeles to Berlin and Toronto .

He photographed all types of people, always maintaining the same clean black and white aesthetic. His subjects always look us in the eye with a touching and enigmatic intensity.

The diversity of bodies and genders speaks to us of acceptance, of human encounters, of inclusion, even of reconciliation. The short-lived nature of the deal also adds a layer of complexity to the project.

“The two guys in the photo used in one of the New York Timesfor example, today they no longer look alike at all, because one has stayed the same and the other has increased,” emphasizes the photographer.

“I don’t photograph for competitions, but to please myself and to satisfy my passion,” says the one who aspires to an exhibition where his photos are used extensively.

His next ambition as a photographer of doppelganger ? Pairing of an Israeli and Palestinian duo, a project made possible thanks to the support of a Toronto duo who have expressed their willingness to play the game.

“The interest of my photos is to show peace and the impression that my subjects are fine the way they are, happy in their own skin. I think it helps people to be interested in positive images. It’s comforting to find harmony in a chaotic world like ours. »

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