If you believe that every person in the world has a doppelganger — that other human being who looks just like them, eerily so — then Francois Brunelle has found 360 of them, and counting.
Brunelle, a professional photographer from Montreal, has devoted the last 12 years of his life to connecting people who look just alike and putting them in front of the lens.
So far Brunelle, 62, has photographed 180 pairs of people from around the world who look almost exactly alike but are not related. They are regular people, not models, and Brunelle always photographs them together, without makeup, to capture their chemistry.
“When the two of them get together in front of the lens, something is magic,” Brunelle told ABCNews.com. “Most of the time, it’s never happened before. Some of them have never been photographed by a real photographer.”
“They have to be together to experience the meeting of the other person, which is kind of strange,” he said.
Another signature of Brunelle’s “I’m not a look-alike!” project is that, in every photograph, the two subjects are touching, whether it be one’s hand on the other’s shoulder, or a closer embrace if the two knew each other beforehand.
“I want them to be close so the eye doesn’t travel too much on the print and to prove that they’re actually there together,” he said.
Brunelle’s idea was born from his own doppelganger experience. He was told he looked like Mr. Bean, the famous British TV character.
“I didn’t know who he was until once I was watching TV and saw him and was a little afraid,” he said. “When I saw him on television I said, ‘This guy looks like me,’ and then when I saw his name once the program ended I said, ‘Oh no, it’s true.’”
In 2000, Brunelle began his project, relying on his own network of look-alike neighbors, friends, family and regular folks on the street, with the goal of collecting 200 photographs.
“At first it was just people that I knew, these pairs I knew existed, but at some point I was short of the look-alikes so I went to the local paper and said, ‘Please help with me my project and tell people I want to find their look-alikes,’” he said.
As word of the project grew, Brunelle began traveling all over Europe, Canada and the U.S. to take people’s photographs. The subjects are not paid but do receive a signed copy of the black-and-white photo to commemorate their doppelganger moment.
Brunelle says the moments in the photo studio can be funny — like the two best friends who, though not related, looked like twins and dressed alike to fool everyone — and also potentially awkward.
“I remember I had a friend who had a very big nose and I was in a restaurant in the country with my children and they said, ‘This guy looks like your friend,’ and I said, ‘That’s true,’” he said. “I got both of them in the studio and when my friend saw the other man’s nose he said, ‘Okay, I understand.’”
“He didn’t expect to see another big nose,” he said. “And he had to realize that’s the way he’s made.”
Brunelle is still looking for look-alikes, particularly in the U.S., to reach his goal of 200 photographs. Once his project is complete, he said he plans to display it in a book and traveling exhibit.
“There’s a story around each of the encounters,” he said. “When people see the pictures there’s always reactions and comments on them. It’s popular.”