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Have We Met Before? Doppelgangers Caught On Camera

Francois Brunelle is a French Canadian photographer whose work gives new meaning to the phrase "double exposure."

For the past several years, Brunelle has been documenting doppelgangers — people who happen to look strikingly similar but aren't related. He's on a quest to make 200 black-and-white portraits, and plans to eventually turn the project into a book.

Brunelle tells Melissa Block, host of All Things Considered, that the project started among his friends. One acquaintance worked with a man and woman who shared the same distinct jaw line and skin tone. That was Brunelle's first image for the project.

"I was very proud of this one," Brunelle says. "Since then I've had a couple that are men and women, but it was the first one that [wasn't] the same sex — but it works."

Another time, he swore he saw a friend's husband working at a bank. But when he called his friend, he realized he had just discovered a doppelganger.

Francois Brunelle
/ Courtesy of Francois Brunelle
Courtesy of Francois Brunelle
Francois Brunelle

"So finally it took me about six months to find the guy. I did the picture with the two men; it was fun to see them," he says. "Each one has two children, they were about the same age, and they were [both] looking for a new spouse. It was very funny."

After his search for pairs ran dry, Brunelle set up a form on his website where visitors can submit themselves for consideration, as long as they have a lookalike in mind. But he says he receives many requests, especially from China, from people hoping he can track down their own mirror image.

"You would be surprised how many people on this planet are looking for their doppelganger," he says. "I've gotten many emails over the years from Chinese people who are asking me, 'Could you please find my lookalike so I can have something to relate to?' "

Brunelle thinks the widespread desire for a familiar face is a symptom of the modern world we live in — where, despite our connections through social media, we can feel more alone than ever.

Brunelle, of course, has identified his own doppelganger. He told the Toronto Star in 2006 that he could pass for actor Rowan Atkinson, best known for his role as Mr. Bean.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.