What happens when you ask two total strangers to pose together for an intimate photo? A lot more than you might think. This is what Richard Renaldi seeks to discover in his project “Touching Strangers.” Part photography venture and part social experiment, what Renaldi does with his photos is seek to better understand humanity.
Based in New York, he roams the streets looking for the perfect subjects, who also happen to be perfect strangers. Past pairings have included a police officer and a teenage girl, as well as poetry teacher and a retired fashion designer. Renaldi often chooses unlikely pairings of strangers, who come from different occupations, races, and age groups.
When he finds two or three (depending on the specific portrait) subjects, Renaldi asks the strangers to pose as loved ones. Whether it is as friends, family, or a romantic couple, the subjects must overcome their initial nerves and awkwardness to create a convincing portrait.
This includes physical touch and long stares, which can be very uncomfortable for complete strangers. While this may seem like an impossible feat, nearly every participant of Renaldi’s project has said that the photographer put them at ease, making the pose come easy after a few minutes. In fact, in the final product, you would never know that the subjects had just met.
Renaldi has been executing this project for several years now and has hundreds of photographs. The beauty of this project is that it shows us how humanity could be. Of his photo experience, one participant observes, “It was nice to feel that comfort.”