When Strangers Touch
Richard Renaldi is not your typical matchmaker. He roams cities and towns across the U.S., looking for the right couple of complete strangers. Then he asks them to touch each other — to physically interact — in a way that’s normally reserved for a lover, spouse or family member.
Then he photographs them.
The resulting exhibit, called “Richard Renaldi: Touching Strangers,” will be on display at LMU’s Laband Art Gallery from Sept. 12 through Nov. 22, 2015.
“In this series Renaldi questions how we relate with each other — how we relate with people who we pass by on the streets in our daily lives,” says Carolyn Peter, director and curator of the Laband gallery.
Renaldi has shot hundreds of portraits for “Touching Strangers,” more than 30 of which will be on display at the gallery. Some photos exude the inevitable awkwardness in an intimate interaction by strangers. Others are surprising because they don’t.
Peter believes the exhibit will touch those who see it with thoughts about the strangers in their lives even as it portrays the contact between those photographed.
“Every individual has a different experience of life. I’m crossing paths with people each day and yet I don’t know their stories,” said Peter. “Maybe I’m not taking the time to understand them or break through those barriers that society creates through age and religion and economics and ethnicity to understand them even though we’re covering the same physical ground.”
That’s a big part of why Peter thinks “Touching Strangers” is perfect for LMU.
“With all that’s been going on in the U.S. and in the world, with tensions and violence and problems that stem from not understanding each other, I think this exhibition can be a takeoff point for some crucial conversations about those issues,” she said. “LMU’s principles of having compassion for each other, service and faith, and a focus on social justice — those are all part of that. If we understand each other, if we connect with each other, all of that falls into place.”
The exhibit, organized by the Aperture Foundation in New York, was also shown at Loyola University Chicago, and Peter said it was interesting that two Jesuit schools were drawn to put Renaldi’s work on display.
Renaldi, who is originally from Chicago, is a world-renowned photographer whose shows have appeared in galleries and museums across the U.S., Europe and Asia. He will visit LMU in mid-September to deliver a public lecture and work with photography and communications studies students. Peter calls the chance to see both the artist and his art an “amazing opportunity.”
“This series in particular is talking about some basic human questions of relationships and intimacy — how we relate with each other, how we connect, and how we don’t,” she says. “It’s really getting to the core of some really important human dynamics and asking questions that will have viewers thinking long after the exhibition is over.”