Japanese photographer Ariko Inaoka traveled to Iceland to capture the unique landscape the country has to offer. However, it was a pair of Icelandic twins that kept her coming back every year after.
Inaoka first met Erna and Hrefna when they were only six years old during a fashion shoot. Something about the two girls stuck with Ariko and the identical duo quickly became the photographer’s new muses.
Ariko’s fascination with the twins inspired her to start a new ongoing project. Inaoka decided to visit Iceland every summer to photograph the pair and capture the unique bond they have with each other over a period of five years.
Ariko Inaoka grew up in Kyoto, Japan, but moved to the United States when she was 17 years old. Her love for photography blossomed after she became inspired to take up the craft after seeing her roommate constantly carrying around a camera. Her studies eventually took her to Iceland for a project on landscape and water.
During her trip to the Nordic country, Inaoka decided to do a fashion shoot for some extra income. One of her best friends from Iceland spotted her future muses, Erna and Hrefna, at a local swimming pool and invited them to a casting session.
Inaoka was instantly enchanted by the Icelandic twins and they inspired an entirely new project for the photographer. “I met them when they were 6 years old,” Inaoka told P3. ‘When they were 8 I made an 8mm short film. I only began photographing them for this project when they were nine.”
After Inaoka’s project idealized, she returned to Reykjavik every summer to photograph them again. Her fascination stemmed from the mysterious nature of the intense connection the twins share and how that can change during the transition from infancy to adolescence.
“I tried to photograph other twins when I started the project, but I only felt a significant bond with Erna and Hrefna. They are harmonious when together and mutually respect and love each other,” Inaoka told P3.
“Whilst, at the same time, they are very different from one another. They are modest, confident and mature. They take ballet very seriously and are excellent ballerinas. It has been incredible to document their lives.”
Erna and Hrefna are now 16 years old. After photographing the twins for seven years straight, Inaoka has decided that her next trip will mark the last series of photographs for the project. She plans to exhibit her work and eventually publish a photo book.
While Inaoka initially planned on incorporating other sets of twins in the project, she admitted that the unspoken connection between Erna and Hrefna was an unparalleled one. Inaoka became interested in how the two girls’ contrasting personalities changed over the years.
“They have a different personality, of course, but their roles with each other are always kind of in harmony. One is more shy, then as they grow older that relationship changes again,” told The Guardian.
“To start with Erna and Hrefna were just very cute, twins, a beautiful subject to create beautiful images. Then I thought: ‘How will they be when they are 17?’ So the idea formed to capture that change, from innocence to experience, if you like.”
Part of that curiosity, Inaoka admits, has to do with the fact that she can’t truly remember the specifics of her own transition into adolescence. It’s an influential time period that Inaoka says shaped who she’s become today.
“There is so much feeling and thinking in that time between nine and 16,” Inaoka says. “But most of it is lost afterwards. The girls are 14 now and when I talk with them Irealizee how smart they are, how grown up and how innocent, how much maturity they have, yet how like children.”