Black and white. Male and female. Rich and poor. Old-fashioned and modern.
These are just some of the social barriers Chicago-born photographer Richard Renaldi succeeds in tearing down in his newest photo project Touching Strangers.
Started in 2007 after being inspired by scenes he captured in his cross-country expedition See America by Bus, Renaldi launched this project in hopes of portraying contrasting characters of society in moments of intimacy. This would be a rather easy project to accomplish with models or actors, but Renaldi instead used everyday people in many cities, including his home town of Chicago.
This is the first time the Loyola University Museum of Art, or LUMA, has displayed Renaldi’s work.
According to LUMA docent Lisa Caputo Love, the objective of tearing down the walls that segregate human beings from each other aligns perfectly with Loyola’s Jesuit ideals of social justice and humanity.
She hopes the child she is raising and the second she will soon give birth to will grow up in a world where a photographer like Renaldi won’t have to ask strangers to share intimate moments.
Not all of Renaldi’s subjects seem willing to step out of their comfort zone.
In Vincent and Charles, a photo from Los Angeles in 2012, two men of different racial backgrounds are depicted touching the palms of their hands together. It’s a simple gesture, but a certain discomfort resonates from their solemn eyes as they look away from each other, suggesting the two subjects wish this experiment to be over.
Although not portraying the same human intimacy seen in Donna and Donna – in which an older and younger woman are shown holding hands and smiling rather jubilantly – the photograph still forces the viewer to ask themselves: do humans truly long for this sort of experience in their everyday lives, or are they itching to escape from the claustrophobic world that plagues their everyday routine? Are these your words or did we see this phrasing elsewhere?
Perhaps a viewer will have an answer to that question when they view Renaldi’s provocative photos at LUMA this summer in Chicago.
LUMA, located at 820 N. Michigan Ave., will display the exhibit until Aug. 2. The museum is open from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday and general admission is $8. On Tuesdays the museum is open from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and admission is free.