In America, one of the early warnings children receive from their parents is the saying “don’t talk to strangers.” It is for good reason and serves to protect them from the potential child predator. Yet, somehow this propaganda which gets etched in these young minds can evolve to a mental state where fully grown adults are always hesitant to trust anyone they don’t personally know. The reality though, is that most people on this planet are in fact friendly and nice, and share similarities with everyone; similarities such as loving family, working for a better life and being loved. Photographer Richard Renaldi created a photographic project in 2007 called “Touching Strangers.” In this series, Renaldi sought to create unpredictable variables into traditional photography, and to create spontaneous relationships between complete strangers.
In a world where the act of touch is reserved to those that people are comfortable with, Renaldi breaks through the stereotype and creates images that suggest that these complete strangers are close – like friends or family. In his words:
I am a New York city based photographer who began a life long relationship with photography back in high school in 1984. I few years ago I became interested in the dynamics of group portraiture and this led me to the project you see here. The premise of this work is simple: I meet two or more people on the street who are strangers to each other, and to me. I ask them if they will pose for a photograph together with the stipulation that they must touch each other in some manner. Frequently, I instruct or coach the subjects how to touch. Just as often, I let their tentative physical exploration play out before my camera with no interference. Though these situations involve orchestrated collaborations between subject and photographer, the emotions captured are both genuine and honest. Touching Strangers encourages viewers to think about how we relate physically to one another, and to entertain the possibility that there is unlimited potential for new relationships with almost everybody passing by.
Check out more of Renaldis work on his site.