O Me of Little Faith

I’m not much of a people person, which is why I’ve chosen to pursue a career in writing instead of, say, a career in clowning or massage therapy or cosmetology. I’ll “speak” to anyone via email or Twitter or IM, but if I don’t know you, I’m probably hesitant to talk to you in real life. And I certainly don’t want to touch you.

So I’m an online extrovert and a real-world introvert, with intimacy issues. (And a passion for modern dance, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Anyway, I’m fascinated by Richard Renaldi’s new collection of photographs. The series is called “Touching Strangers,” and to shoot it, he looked for at least two people in public places and asked them — who preferably were from different races or economic backgrounds — to pose for a photograph. He didn’t know these people. The people didn’t know each other. Also? He asked them to touch each other so that they’d appear, in the photo, to be an intimate couple, or family members.

The photos are fascinating. I’ve looked at several of them by way of Renaldi’s website — after learning the conceit behind them — and the intimacy of the photos does seem a little “off.” In most cases, the people appear stiff and uncomfortable, and rightly so. “I wanted the images to explore how notions of trust, love, social conventions, and taboos are expressed through body language,” he said in this interview at the Conscientious blog.

I would have been pretty stiff and uncomfortable, too. In fact, I feel that way almost every time I get photographed, whether I’ve got my hand on the knee of some total stranger or not.

But what a great idea for a photo series. And what a brilliant negotiator Renaldi must be to talk people into this:

Hello, clean-cut man in khakis. You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I would like to photograph you against this interesting green urban background. Also? I’d like you to put your arm around my new friend, Carlos. Yeah, he’s the scowling kid wearing the baggy pants and wife-beater. No, I don’t really know him either, but he seems cool. He’s been shopping, apparently. OK. Move a little closer. A little closer. Seriously, act like you know each other. Smile, Alex. Carlos, keep that glare going. Perfect. Ready, guys?


Check out larger versions of the “Touching Strangers” photo collection here.

[H/T: Coolhunting]

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