Human Journey

Behind the Photo: Seeing Double

During a project in search of twins to photograph, Jodi Cobb stumbled on this spooky pair in a setting not soon to be forgotten. (Photograph by Jodi Cobb)

When looking at National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb’s eerie photo of adult twins in a spooky setting, you expect to hear the duet whisper, “Come play with us.”

Cobb, who is known for breaking societal barriers to cover beauty around the world, discussed her photo and the sometimes unsettling nature of seeing double.

“I try to put a human face on complex and dry science stories to bring them to life. For a story on the science of epigenetics, I photographed twins. Twins are spooky—they unnerve us because they challenge our sense of uniqueness. I wanted to get inside their lives to see how they live and work together, so I spent a day or two with each set and tried to become a fly on the wall. Camille and Kennerly, pictured here, are making a career of their twinship as actors. Even when they’re not acting in movies like Creeporia, a comedy-horror film, the two prefer to dress alike,” Cobb said.

Throughout her career, Cobb has immersed herself in some of the most remote communities around the world to capture the beauty and complexities of being human, from everyday life to culture and ceremony.

As a photojournalism student in the 1960s Cobb avidly recorded the counter-culture she was immersed in, starting with some of rock-and-roll’s biggest names—Bruce Springsteen and Grace Slick among them. Her first documentary project covering a commune in the Ozark hills garnered numerous awards, establishing her as a new young star of the photographic world.

In the mid-1970s, Cobb left newspapers to become the first female photographer for National Geographic magazine, which was then very much a boys’ club. She would go on to shoot some of the most pivotal stories in the magazine’s history, including the shocking and poignant “21st Century Slavery,” exposing a wide range of human trafficking, child and slave labor, and the sex trade.

Now, audiences in New York can travel with Cobb to hear her stories about Japan’s Geisha culture, American children’s beauty pageants and the flamboyant, painted men of Papua New Guinea on her “Stranger in a Strange Land” tour with National Geographic Live.

Join Cobb in New York at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on April 8 for more stories behind Cobb’s photos. For tickets and information, visit the National Geographic Live event page for New York.

Caroline Gerdes recently graduated from Louisiana State University where she studied journalism and history (her major and minor, respectively). As a native of the Greater New Orleans Area, she decided to explore her own backyard with help from a Young Explorers Grant. Caroline is currently conducting an oral history project about the New Orleans Ninth Ward. She seeks to record the community’s full history — its immigrant beginnings, the development of jazz, the depression and prohibition, desegregation and hurricanes. Caroline’s exploration is also a personal quest as her father and paternal grandparents grew up in the Ninth Ward. Her blogs reflect an inside look at New Orleans life and culture, especially the edible aspects.

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