At first glance, Richard Renaldi’s portraits taken across the United States are little more than candid portraits taken with a really nice single-lens reflex camera. Obviously the portraits are well thought out and put together; the portrait artist definitely knows how to frame a photograph. Sure they capture a beautiful part of Americana, with the normal subjects in their mundane tasks or living their average lives to which everyone can relate. What stands out in these photographs is the relation of the subjects chosen for the photographs.
There is none. In his collection Touching Strangers, Renaldi’s focus was to find two complete strangers who happened to be near each other who, for one moment, would meet, share a photograph, and then go their separate ways. It is likely that the subjects might never meet again. Yet in the brief instant the artist catches on film there is a familiarity and comfort between some of the models who despite all appearances have only met just before the photograph. Note that this is only for some of the models, as many of Renaldi’s pieces show a stiffness about them where some participants are undoubtedly uncomfortable with their present situation.
It is simple to understand the awkwardness of some of the photos despite the amateur models. The one condition that Renaldi required of all of his subjects is that they must be touching in some fashion in the photograph. The contact helps visually confuse the knowledge that the models are strangers with evidence of some sort of feigned relationship. When all is said and done, the compositions bring forth the question of our interpersonal relationships, and whether there is pretense in the connections of family, friend, and lover.
Portraits, or mere snapshots? You make the call.