Hermès Fondation
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Richard Renaldi at The Gallery at Hermès

Touching Strangers

American photographer Richard Renaldi's experimental approach plays on the contrast between the apparent banality of specific situations, and their inner, inexpressible strangeness. The Touching Strangers series provokes unaccustomed close contact between perfect strangers.

Richard Renaldi at The Gallery at Hermès
© Richard Renaldi

The question of otherness, at the heart of all human intercourse; the key question of our relationship to other people, be they foreign or just different, frightening, fascinating or disturbing; whether we accept or reject them; the same question that forces us to look at our relationship with our own selves…

Richard Renaldi's photographic series, begun in 2007 and presented for the first time at the Gallery at Hermès, explores these fundamental questions. At what point does another person cease to be a stranger? Renaldi asks two or more people who are strangers to each other and strangers to him to pose together and touch one another in some way, often creating the impression that they are family members or friends. Renaldi aims, he says, to "introduce an unpredictable variable in a very traditional photographic formula, to create a spontaneous and fleeting relationship between complete strangers in front of my 8x10 view camera."

The pictures generate an extraordinary psychological intensity. The gesture of an arm or hand placed on the other person may be stern, comical, intimate or aloof. Each new picture forges a link, establishes a connection two people while at the same time betraying a sense of profound reticence. This is the essence of Richard Renaldi's work, in the tradition of photographers like August Sander, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand, relentlessly exploring the question of "otherness" and its infinite possibilities.

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