Two strangers embrace while travelling on public transport, but you’d be forgiven for thinking these two people had known one another for a long time. After all, it’s not everyday that strangers embrace one another in such intimate positions. So what’s this all about, you ask?
This unique project is titled Touching Strangers, and the photographer behind this series of work is Richard Renaldi. Touching Strangers evolved out of a project Renaldi did back in 2003, titled See America By Bus. This project involved the photographer taking photos of people in Greyhound bus stations all over the country.
It’s photographs such as this one that really tug at the heartstrings. Renaldi began his Touching Strangers project in 2007. His aim was simple: to encourage people to break away from who they are and pose with complete strangers with their bodies touching in some way.
At first thought, many people would think that this young man and woman are dating, but in actual fact, they’re strangers! Photographer Richard Renaldi states that while some people pose awkwardly with one another, others are comfortable almost straight away. Some hold hands, or kiss one another on the cheek.
These two men might both be wearing a suit and tie, but that’s probably all they know about one another – they are strangers after all! Renaldi aims to push people out of their comfort zones and think beyond racial and ethnic divisions.
Not surprisingly, the photographer admits that at times it can be very difficult to find people who agree to posing so intimately with a fellow stranger. Most of the time though, the photographer reports high success rates. We love this photograph featuring a mother and her children, and a man who only moments ago was simply an unknown passer-by.
Not only does Richard Renaldi highlight the breaking down of boundaries between strangers, but he also highlights the height difference between this man and woman (not intentional, we’re sure!) The photographer’s project is so unique that He has recently launched a joint Kickstarter project with Aperture to fund a special edition book of these photographs.
This photograph is another example of family members posing with a complete stranger (and vice versa!) Chris Boot, the executive director of Aperture, is a huge fan of the photographer’s project. He states: “It’s a really bold and exciting piece of work…He’s doing something original.”
We have to admit, the stance of these two people does look quite awkward and posed, however there is a kind of vulnerability and raw beauty about this photograph too. Chris Boot states the photographer is “out there invoking people to touch each other, to breach taboos, to reach out to each other across race and class and age barriers. It says something about human society.”
You may have noticed by now that every photograph shows the subjects touching, an act that is unusual in a world where touch is reserved for those we know and are comfortable with. What happens once the photograph has been taken? Do both individuals just walk away and get on with their day?
You’ve probably been wanting to know a little more about the inspiring photographer behind this series. Richard Renaldi was born in Chicago in 1968 and he received his BFA in photography from New York University in 1990. Exhibitions of his photographs have been mounted in galleries and museums throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe.
On his website alone, the photographer lists 41 exhibitions over the recent years that he has been involved with, either as solo exhibitions of his work, or group photographer exhibitions. Many photography critics are hailing his series Touching Strangers as an innovation in photography.
We love this photograph because of its simple gesture of both men’s palms pressing against one another – a symbol of hope and unity. This series definitely strives towards these two themes, through hoping to unite strangers who would not normally cross paths.
These two young men look completely at ease with one another! To think that only moments ago, they would not have had a clue as to who one another were. We wonder what the selection process of subjects for photographs would be? Does he randomly select them, or have certain criteria in his mind?
We find this photograph from the series to be very unique indeed – it appears to have been this lady’s wedding day! There she is about to crack open the champagne until being approached by a man with a camera asking her to pose with a complete stranger. I’ve guess we’ve heard of weirder things happening!