J. Whalen (active Michigan,
- "A Chance
Meeting" (Double Self-Portrait)
print cabinet card, circa 1895
various times Whalen operated studios in Holly,
Charlotte, Saranac, Albion and Detroit, Michigan.
This is one of several surviving multiple portraits
and self-portraits that were discovered in an album
-- almost certainly one kept by the photographer
and his family. In this example, two Abel Whalens
chance upon each other. The somewhat wary eye
contact between the two seems natural, adding
greatly to the realism of the scene.
is something a little unsettling about chancing
upon your exact double. In fact, the idea that
every living person or animal has a mystical double
comes from German folklore, where such an
apparition is known as a "doppelgänger."
Usually doppelgängers are thought to be
invisible; seeing one's double was considered a
sign of impending death. Doppelgängers
appeared in popular literature of the 19th century,
including the novel Die Elixiere des
Teufels, ("The Devil's Elixir") by E.T.A.
Hoffmann (1815-1816) and The Double (1846)
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.