Touching Strangers

You can usually tell a lot about a person…just by watching their body language.  People watching is one of my favorite hobbies.  I love to sit in a food court at the mall and watch people and hear little tid bits of their lives as they walk past my table.  I guess maybe it goes back to that old “What is the meaning of life?” and “Why are we here?” type thinking.  We all play such a big part in this world.  Strangers – they intrigue me.

I suppose that is why I am so into Richard Renaldi, an artist out of New York.  He takes photographs of people…lots of people.  His artistic eye captures people in a way that gives the viewer an opportunity to write a story about that person the instant they look at them.

Richard has several different projects that I love like “Manhattan Sunday” – a series of black and white photos depicting people on the streets of Manhattan in their own light.  These photos put me in Manhattan.  I can see myself sipping on a warm cup of Earl Grey in a little café watching these people walk by – can you imagine their stories?  I also love “The Grand Show” – photos from all over the United States that portray scenes of beauty and chaos and history.  Just lovely, really.

My favorite project has been getting publicity lately…which is actually how I learned about him.  A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook from CBS News that was featuring his project “Touching Strangers“.  She is very artistic herself and said, “This? I love. Adore.” and posted a link the article.  I read it and had to find out more!  So google bound I was…  The interesting thing is that I love Richard’s artistic vision – but I love the idea behind this series of photos.  He asks complete strangers to pose with each other.  Awkward is the first word that would come to my mind – but I think I would probably do it.

With so much history behind us – we all tend to live in a world of our own of sorts.  It’s like we have are our own city, allowing those that we enjoy to live in our city.  We know that there are billions of other people out there but they need to live in their own city.  Lets face it – it is hard to let people in.  I am a touchy-feely, affectionate kind of gal – which makes some people very uncomfortable.  I often refer to people as doll, hun, sugar, sweetie – you get the idea.  I once had a man tell me, “My name is Marshall, not hun.”  I was a little taken aback.  First because I was offended, but then because I felt guilty for making him feel uncomfortable or maybe disrespected?  At any rate – I still see this man from time to time in business and since that day it is always, “How are you today, Marshall?” and “Thank you, Sir”  He seems appreciative – even shocked me the other day by offering me some discount coupons at a local buffet because he knows I like to eat out with my kiddos.

That is the way of the world – we don’t want to let anyone new in.  In this series of photos, Richard asks random people on the streets of New York to pose together – as if they know each other – and to touch in some way.

Some of the photos suggest they know each other intimately…


Tari, Shawn & Summer

Some photos you can see the awkwardness…


Alex & Carlos

In an interview done by Joerg Colberg, Richard said, “I decided I wanted the images to explore how notions of trust, love, social conventions, and taboos are expressed through body language.”  I would say he hit his mark.

A few of my favorites…


Alfredo & Jessica


Michael & Kimberly

The photo below is my absolute favorite – probably because I was able to read the story behind it.  Richard said he approached a lot of people that were not willing to be photographed with a  stranger – much less touching them!  On this day Julie was in the park taking her wedding photos.  Richard approached her and explained his endeavor and in his words, “Thrillingly, she was game.”  He began searching for the park for someone to photograph her with.  When he found Xavier, he knew it was a perfect match.  Her family and the wedding party watched on as the wedding photographer recorded the events and this photo was the result.


Julie & Xavier

Remember, I like to create stories while watching people in their normal day-to-day lives.  These photos give me the opportunity to imagine things on a grander scale.  Not just, “Who are these people?” and “Where are they going?” but, “Who were they?” and “How did they meet?” – “What is their story?” I think it is simply fascinating.

When the photo shoot was done – did these people just walk away?  Did they become life long friends.  Did they keep in contact at all?

When asked something very close to those questions Renaldi said, “As far as I know, no one exchanged phone numbers.  But I do try to email the subjects their pictures, and I include both email addresses so they could theoretically get in touch with each other…”

And I think that is kind of awesome.

Here are some links if you would like to find out more:

Richard Renaldi’s Website

Richard Renaldi’s Blog

Follow Richard on Instagram

Richard Renaldi on Facebook

**Note: The project titled “Hotel Room Portraits” is a collection of photos of Richard and his partner Seth in some of the hotels they have stayed at during their travels.  A few of these pictures show full frontal nudity.  They were all very artistic and tasteful photos – however – in case you are viewing at work or in a public area, I wanted to give a heads up.