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At the forefront of the multiplication of doubles

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

Posted at 16:00 yesterday

Sylvie St Jacques
special cooperation

In 2004, François Brunelle granted The print an interview on the new project that inhabited it. This freelance photographer was therefore invested with the fun mission of photographing lookalikes: people who knew neither Eva nor Adam, but still shared undeniable physical similarities. At the time, his goal was simply to take good pictures, which perhaps would have been listed in some sort of “coffee table” book. But fate had other plans for him …

On the day of our interview, he received meteorologist Pascal Yiacouvakis and Jean-Marc Pilon, an education consultant, at his studio in Old Montreal. The two men had agreed to become part of the photographic collection of doppelganger by Francois Brunelle.


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

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

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

“The article of The print gave a good impression to the project. Since then we have received several e-mail of people who wanted to direct us to doubles. ”

Spotter Doppelganger

In a study published in late August in the scientific journal Cellular reportsthe Dr Manel Esteller revealed the results of his study that used facial recognition to compare the similarities of the DNA of a group of twins to that of doppelganger photographed by François Brunelle.

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

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

It was in Madrid that François Brunelle first met the Dr Esteller. Although at first he had expressed some perplexity, because he above all wanted to respect the privacy of his subjects, the photographer decided to rely on this researcher who is a “science superstar”.

On the way of mirrors

Chatting with François Brunelle one has the impression of listening to the playful story of an artist with the heart of a child. He is the first to be surprised by the trajectory taken by this look-alike hunt, which began with a real fascination for these beings who look alike, without being bound by blood. He himself has been compared to Rowan Atkinson, aka Mister Bean, although 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, the New York journalist David Levine … A trajectory that made the Los Angeles project bounce . From Angeles to Bogotá via Berlin and Toronto.

He photographed all kinds of people, always keeping the same clean black and white aesthetic. Her subjects always look us in the eye, with a moving and enigmatic intensity.

The diversity of bodies and genders speaks to us of welcome, of human encounters, of inclusion, even of reconciliation. The ephemeral nature of the business also adds a level of complexity to the project.

“The two guys pictured used in one of the New York Timesfor example, today they don’t look alike at all, because one has remained the same and the other has gained weight ”, emphasizes the photographer.

“I don’t do photography for competitions, but to please myself and satisfy my passion”, says the one who aspires to an exhibition in which his photos are spread out broadly.

His next ambition as a photographer of doppelganger ? Coupling an Israeli and Palestinian duo, a project that could be made possible thanks to the assistance of a Toronto duo who have expressed their willingness to get involved.

“The interest of my photos is to show peace and the impression that my subjects are fine as they are, happy in their own skin. I think it helps people to take an interest in positive images. It is reassuring to find harmony in a chaotic world like ours. ”

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