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In Focus: Richard Renaldi


Julia Kryshevich

In Focus: Richard Renaldi

And here we are back with the column In Focus, where we talk about outstanding photographers and their projects. Richard Renaldi is on the air today.

Richard Renaldi’s works are primarily about the personality and her character. Renaldi calls himself a photographer’s photographer, explaining that both outward and inward looking are equally important for him. Portraits are definitely the artist’s strong virtue and passion, though considering his creative approach, Renaldi might find a landscape shooting an intensive communication process as well.

‘<…> the camera is an extension of the eye that legitimizes that stare’. (Richard Renaldi, from the interview with LensCulture, 2020)

From ‘Pier 45’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

From ‘49_50’ series. Windward Beach, O‘ahu, HI, 2007. Courtesy of the Artist_

Richard Renaldi was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1968. He took up photography at the age of 18. Having given up the opportunity to join family business, the young man entered the Fine Arts Faculty of New York University to study photography. In the 90’s Richard Renaldi tried working as a photo researcher at Magnum — that’s how his interest in portraiture was shaped. 

‘<…> I saw a lot of photos in a reportage style, and I think that inherently gave me the desire to slow things down and engage with my subjects. I could really dig into what it meant to make a portrait of a stranger on the street. (Richard Renaldi, from the interview with LensCulture, 2020)

From ‘Typology of the American Teenager’ series. Ashley and Ashlee, 2004. Courtesy of the Artist_

From ‘Typology of the American Teenager’ series. Josh and Lindsey, 2012. Courtesy of the Artist_

From ‘Typology of the American Teenager’ series. Bianca, Shailah, Kayla, and Ashley, 2011. Courtesy of the Artist_

As mentioned above, Richard creates a lot of portrait projects, five of which have been turned into books. Upon his first series, Figure and Ground (2006) the artist worked for 7 years, shooting sceneries and people all across the US with his 8×10 camera, thus trying to portray the American landscape, both natural and social one. In the Fall River Boys (2009) Renaldi explores the category of young men from the so-called small city in Massachusetts. Again here the photographer shows interest in human nature and the way it’s revealed in a surrounding and/or a relationship.

‘In the moments where I haven’t been making work I end up feeling quite restless and the only way to alleviate that is to make art’. (Richard Renaldi, from the interview with LACPhoto)

From ‘Fall River Boys’ series. Raymond and Jeffrey, 2002. Courtesy of the Artist

From ‘Fall River Boys’ series. Shane, 2006. Courtesy of the Artist

His homage to New York nightlife Manhattan Sunday (2016) and autobiographical I want your love (2018) have reached out to the hearts and minds of people, but it’s the project Touching Strangers (2014) that became the artist’s trademark. 

‘If a portrait has a narrative, I’m usually drawn to it. I don’t necessarily mind if something is staged, but when things start to feel too artificial, I think it’s a crutch’. (Richard Renaldi, from the interview with LensCulture, 2020)

It took Renaldi 7 years to produce about 70 images depicting strangers in various parts of the US paired up quite randomly. At least, for them — we can only guess what inspired Renaldi, but for the models from the streets the decision was a complete mystery and a big surprise. The task sounded simple and, at the same time, hardly feasible: to pose together with a stranger like if you were lovers/relatives/friends (put the right word here). Actually, some of the participants easily catched on, while others seemed to be confused and couldn’t get into character.

From ‘Touching Strangers’ series. Jacqueline and Halle_ Columbus, OH, 2011. Courtesy of the Artist

From ‘Touching Strangers’ series. Nathan and Robyn_ Provincetown, MA, 2012. Courtesy of the Artist_

From ‘Touching Strangers’ series. LeAsia and Rebecca_ New York, NY, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist

However, it’s not about judging how well Renaldi’s models fit in the created picture. Perhaps the project Touching Strangers might encourage us to think of the possible narratives that could be taking place in someone’s life — something you can never be sure about looking at strangers. Is this charming girl in love? She’s lighting up with joy. Or: those two look like brothers, so alike. And hundreds other guesses like that in a day.

From ‘Touching Strangers’ series. Cheyene, Charlie, and Omarian_ Cincinnati, OH, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist

From ‘Touching Strangers’ series. Alfredo and Jessica_ Queens, NY, 2011. Courtesy of the Artist

From ‘Touching Strangers’ series. Hunter, Margaret, and Abigail_ New York, NY, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist

Exhibiting frequently (his solo projects run worldwide, including but not limited to, Robert Morat Galerie in Hamburg, Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, and Fotografins Hus in Stockholm), the artist willingly shares his expertise with emerging photographers. His schedule is full of workshops, and he seemed to enjoy teaching. However, Richard Renaldi admits, he can’t give any magic formula on how to approach strangers, though his students just crave to learn that. It’s about making people relax and one’s own experience — the only tip the photographer is ready to sign.

From ‘The Grand Show’ series. Miami Beach, FL, 2011. Courtesy of the Artist_

From ‘The Grand Show’ series. Coconino County, AZ, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist_

What’s more remarkable, perhaps, is Renaldi’s own attitude towards his work and the photographic medium. The artist says he has never been close to giving up photography, though it’s quite a common story in the artistic milieu. Despite admitting the complexity of a career in photography, Richard Renaldi finds such a way valuable and enriching. And here is what he advises his aspiring colleagues (better make a note): 

‘Most important however is finding your voice and honoring it. Listening to the work you are making and nurturing it for its own sake not necessarily in the pursuit of some immediate goal’.

(Richard Renaldi, from the interview with LACPhoto) 

Richard Renaldi’s website:
His instagram: @renaldiphotos