Twin Sisters Launch Likeness Studio to Pursue Photography Dream
The Gilstraps’ creative business has landed clients like Avaline and Commodore Perry Estate in one short year
By Kaitlyn Harmon
Photos by Likeness Studio
Twins Chloe and Meghin Gilstrap begin their days early with a cup of coffee in one hand and a leash in the other as they call one another for their daily informal morning conference call while walking their dogs. The co-owners and founders of the Likeness Studio run a new photography business that aims to capture natural light and the authenticity of people and places.
Now with clients ranging from Cameron Diaz’s wine company Avaline to the Commodore Perry Estate, the Likeness Studio was first dreamt up by the sisters when they lived in Seattle from 2014 to 2019. Chloe moved to Austin in early 2019, as Meghin simultaneously made a move to Los Angeles. The year-and-a half that followed would mark the twins’ longest stint away from one another.
“We kind of cap it at a year-and-a-half,” says Chloe. “Every time we live in a different city, it’s usually right around a year-and-a half before it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s try to figure out how to live in the same place again.’”
Originally from Greer, South Carolina, the siblings have long had a tight-knit relationship. As best friends and twins, the two have always felt connected, which now translates into their relationship as co-business owners.
“We’ve always been best friends,” says Chloe. “I feel like we still complete each other’s sentences. I think about it as having a best friend who experiences every big life moment –– all of the life moments, really –– whom you share a wardrobe with, you share everything with. That is how close we are as a duo.”
When their high school graduation rolled around, the two took separate paths. Meghin ventured to Clemson University to study psychology, while Chloe began her academic life at the University of South Carolina studying fine art photography.
“We were away from each other for two semesters and were like, ‘This is not working,’” explains Meghin. “I transferred to the University of South Carolina, where Chloe was, and we both ended up transferring to College of Charleston.” The two became roommates at the end of college.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Chloe worked at an architecture and interior office in Seattle, while Meghin worked in production. An intense longing to be back in a southern city, a city that felt more like home, first brough Chloe to Austin.
“I felt like Austin had a nice blend of West Coast mentality with a little more East Coast hospitality,” explains Chloe, who moved to town following her now-fiancé’s move home to Austin. During the summer of 2020, Meghin made the move here from Los Angeles, wanting to be reunited with her sister.
Almost a year after Meghin’s arrival, the Gilstraps officially dove into the entrepreneurial world, although it took a bit of courage to finally bring their dream of the Likeness Studio to fruition during the pandemic.
“I think everybody during that time had moments of ‘What am I doing? Am I doing what I want to be doing? Is there a dream that I’ve had that maybe I should start pursuing?’,” notes Meghin. “That was a big thing for us in 2020.”
With Chloe’s background in photography and Meghin’s more logistics-focused mind, two parts made a whole in forming their business. Upon their launch in September 2021, the Gilstrap twins were determined to make their photography distinctive. With special attention to digital, film and docu-style photography, the Likeness Studio captures spaces, people, stories, food and drinks, weddings and travel with an authentic, down-to-earth approach.
Chloe and Meghin have found Austin’s casual style to be easily adaptable to their photography cadence.
“When I arrived, there was this laid-back vibe about Austin, an informal casualness that I enjoyed,” says Chloe. “And I think how we approach and how we portray our work has that same laid-back, approachable aspect to it. The way we focus on people in their spaces and how they truly live is also an interesting aspect.”
Now looking to transition into more travel and wedding photography, the newfound Austinites are aiming to capture the essence of the “real feeling of a city” and its “casual day-to-day life and warmth.”
The siblings recently traveled to Europe, where they took advantage of their surroundings by capturing authentic digital and film shots of the serene European coastline and traditional architecture.
Meghin even photographed her sister’s engagement photos in France. As the two venture more into weddings, the Likeness Studio will surely have a hand in Chloe’s upcoming wedding, just with one twist.
“I certainly as a bride will have a camera on me,” says Chloe.
The Likeness Studio originally created a space to capture and pursue the natural light and warmth of digital and film in a brick-style building in town. The Likeness Studio not only housed Chloe and Meghin, but also held the workspaces of a filmmaker and painter. In a sense, the four walls that made up the Likeness Studio mirrored that of a community coffee shop for artists, where creative minds could come together to work independently, yet feed off of one another’s energy.
“With that little space we had, having other artists in there like the filmmaker and painter, it was really, really inspiring and also it just gave us the opportunity to informally collaborate and bounce ideas off of other people,” describes Meghin. “That sort of environment is really healthy for artists.”
Coming up on nearly one year of the Likeness Studio this September, the Gilstrap twins were forced to move out of their beloved brick-and-mortar location. As the two actively search for a new building to house their ideas and work, there’s a sense of security in having one another, despite not knowing what the future holds.
“I think just knowing that you have someone and you’re not alone in that — that’s a whole bigger picture — but being able to be vulnerable and completely open with someone and collaborate and bounce ideas off of that person is so meaningful,” explains Chloe. “Even if you don’t have a safety net, it feels like you have a safety net because you’re in it together.”