Twins An and En Estrada expand their horizons through places they go and people they meet
Life for An and En Estrada is a photogenic trip
An and En Estrada may run a blog called Your Evil Twin, but the sisters are anything but. They’re close: sharing clothes and going on trips together, as well as collaborating on photography projects that have garnered them worldwide following and the opportunity to work with magazines and clothing brands.
But before the sisters became photographers, they were, first of all, travelers. “When we were young, our parents would always bring us on road trips to our old beach house in La Union. That’s where our love for beaches and sunny weather came from,” En says. “We’d also go on month-long vacations each year to New York, to visit our mother’s relatives, with the occasional road trip to Florida for its theme parks and its scariest rollercoaster rides.”
An and En have always traveled together but lately, they’ve been taking solo trips. Although nothing beats traveling with each other, especially since they work so well as a team, traveling with their staple favorite film cameras, the Yashieca t4 and the Contax 645, both best for casual travel photography, is a close second. They are both in love with film. “We are both addicted to the feeling and look of nostalgia. And we always get this feeling with film photography: the waiting, the surprises, the anticipation, and the idea of having only 36 shots in your camera instead of 1,000. We love the sound of the shutter, the winding of film, and the whole process of developing with chemicals. It feels like the photo was created entirely by us, from start to finish.
“Usually, we research the places only to plan our outfits. We really wait until we reach the location. Most of the locations in our pictures are unexpected and unconventional spots we just chanced upon. Weather also plays a big role in the feel of the shoot. Polaroids develop differently in cold weather and appear more nostalgic,” En says. “We don’t really have a strict working process. People who have seen us work always say we look like we are just playing. I guess it’s because of our obsession with raw and honest things. We want to capture them without trying too much.”
Traveling, for them, is a lifestyle, something to be savored first and foremost before being documented, the latter a reflection of the journey rather than the point of it. Because of this, An and En tend to take their time, choosing to linger instead of rush, searching for experiences that reflect those of a local’s. “Slow travel is way better in our experience,” En says. “Aside from cutting transportation costs, you really get to experience each destination and form stronger connections with it. Often, we discover off-beat locations while transferring from bus [to bus] or by walking and getting lost. We really enjoy taking train rides in Europe and renting cars. Last year, we rented a car in Tasmania to drive to this island called Bruny. It was much more fun because we learned how to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the car and road. Another perfect example was our choice to ride a donkey instead of a cable car to go down from the cliff to the docks in Santorini.” Their travel philosophy has led to many amazing adventures, some of them making for awesome stories in retrospect. “We had such an amazing time in South Africa. Our first night in Zimbabwe was unforgettable: we forgot to lock our balcony window so monkeys entered our room, stole our stash of chocolates then left a nasty souvenir on our bed,” En says.
Anecdotes like this come from the sisters’ ability both to plan for a trip and to let loose once they reach their destination, to let life take the lead while sticking to a loose script, an attitude that fits both travel and life. As En says, “Don’t plan every detail of the whole trip. Always leave some room for the unexpected. Get lost and you will find your way, discovering new culture and people. We suggest giving up a few cities on the itinerary and spending more time in one; never cram too many cities in one trip.”
The twin’s wanderlust and eye for beauty have led them to collaborations with newspapers, magazines, and clothing brands. In the latter, they had three of their photographs featured on Topman t-shirts that were sold online. That said, they say that they “feel the most fulfilled” when they shoot for themselves. “Our favorite project is still the bedroom series we did back when we were still starting out. Everything was homemade: we shot each other with expired Polaroid film, took videos with a Super 8 in an exotic beach, and made subjects of our interesting friends in their own bedrooms,” En says. “Our travel diaries and videos speak so much about us and they’re more personal. Shooting for other publications and clients, meanwhile, is fun but you’re not really in control
“We don’t really have a strict working process. People who have seen us work always say we look like we are just playing. I guess it’s because of our obsession with raw and honest things.”
of things.” Their dream destination, they say, is South America. “We’re still saving up for it, but hopefully in the next three years,” En says.
Adrift in a world gone digital, An and En’s dream photo project would be one devoid of the trappings that tether them to online space. “It’s always been our dream to just disappear, go on a long backpacking trip or boat ride for a month, and just document everything with film. Forget about iPhones, GoPros, and digital cameras. Forget posting online in real time. Just shoot, shoot, and shoot—then surprise yourself with film photographs when the trip is over,” En says.
More than sisters, An and En’s bond as twins (they even have a made-up language that only they can understand) transcends friendship and collaboration. It’s a partnership that has given the girls a creative outlet that is looked up to and appreciated by many, and it gives them the opportunity to bond more with each other even as they discover themselves. “Aside from having twice [the amount of] clothes, shoes, and friends, we’re never alone. We think Your Evil Twin wouldn’t be the same or as successful if we weren’t twins in the first place; Your Evil Twin is alive because we always have each other to check and balance. We work as a team, so our output is somehow a reflection of our bond. We’re very lucky that we get along so well and share the same ideas, but still manage to balance these things out with our differences,” En says.
The best part about running a successful blog, they say, is the support. “Getting sweet messages from girls around the world telling us how we’ve inspired them to travel and get into sports,” En says. “It’s so cool to be able to reach out to so many people through social media, inspiring young kids to live their dreams and explore the world around them.”
The twins hold 9-to-5 jobs in their family’s construction business, something that not a lot of people would guess from their globe-trotting exploits. “Other than the family business, we’ve been busy with sports,” En says. “An is into surfing and longboarding; you can find me enjoying WODs almost every day in my CrossFit Box. That’s pretty much how we spend our free time when we’re not traveling. We make it a point to keep physically active.”
An and En say that they are putting blogging and print photography aside for a while this year. “We feel like we’ve already accomplished our initial goals in those fields. Most of our friends and followers have been suggesting that we start our own clothing brand and swimwear line, and we’re looking into that this year,” En says. “But in all honesty, we really don’t know what’s in store for us; our email just surprises us with new projects. We didn’t expect to grow this much when we started, but we’re definitely cooking up something before the year ends.” What’s definite, though? “Another travel video for sure!”
“It’s always been our dream to just disappear, go on a long backpacking trip or boat ride for a month, and just document everything with film.”
On An: Backless tartan dress, Vania Romoff, firstname.lastname@example.org. On En: Tartan blazer, P4,649, and trousers, P2,199, both Sfera, SM City Makati.