Since 2007, Richard Renaldi has been working on a series of photographs that involve approaching and asking complete strangers to physically interact while posing together for a portrait. Working on the street with a large format eight-by-ten-inch view camera, Renaldi encounters the subjects for his photographs in towns and cities all over the United States. He pairs them up and invites them to pose together, intimately, in ways that people are usually taught to reserve for their close friends and loved ones. Renaldi creates spontaneous and fleeting relationships between strangers, for the camera, often pushing his subjects beyond their comfort levels. These relationships may only last for the moment the shutter is released, but the resulting photographs are moving and provocative, and raise profound questions about the possibilities for positive human connection in a diverse society. Following an extremely successful Kickstarter effort which raised nine times its goal, Touching Strangers will have an extensive social media campaign. Visit touchingstrangers.org for more information. Richard Renaldi (born 1968) graduated from New York University with a BFA in photography in 1990. He has presented solo exhibitions both in the United States and abroad, including at Fotografins Hus, Stockholm; Robert Morat Galerie, Hamburg, Germany; and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York. Renaldi’s work has also appeared in group exhibitions, including Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video at the International Center of Photography in New York (2003). Touching Strangers is Renaldi’s third book, following Figure and Ground (Aperture, 2006) and Fall River Boys (Charles Lane Press, 2009).
Though he works with an omnivorous 8x10 camera, Richard Renaldi has the roving eye of a street photographer, always searching for the brief encounter, the fleeting moment when a stranger will open his or her life to him, and, consequently, to the viewer. Richard Renaldi's Figure and Ground, drawn from more than seven years of work, presents portraits, landscapes and, most importantly, the portraits in situ that meld those two classic photographic genres, in which he embraces not only individuals but the environment that encompasses them. These images were made across the United States, and take in not only those who might seem traditionally American-a blonde carrying a Louis Vuitton bag through a Greyhound terminal, or a rodeo cowboy, arms akimbo, standing determinedly against an all-dirt horizon-but also a woman in a burqa and Timberland boots on a faded Newark street and a transgender girl working a fast-food counter under the sad-glamorous glow of fluorescent lighting. If there is truly a center to the changing American social landscape, it can be found here, in these precisely rendered portraits.