He is one of the important emerging photographers in the USA: In our interview Richard Renaldi talks about his fascination for full body portraits, his current exhibition in Hamburg and the special challenge of photographing strangers with each other.
You’ve specialized in full body portraits – what fascinates you about it?
Renaldi: I was drawn to try to photograph people how I thought they actually appear to us upon an initial meeting. This led me to frame them in a way where they were not parts or fragments to be used as compositional elements in a photograph, but rather as a whole person, from head to toe. Often when we meet someone for the first time we look at the whole package, their height, weight, dress, feet, hair, etc. Photographing them as full bodies felt appropriate to me.
How do you take your pictures – do you make appointments with your models or do you just ask them on the street?
Renaldi: The majority of my subjects are photographed on the spot.
How do you get a muslim woman wearing a burqa to pose for you on the streets of New Jersey next to a fire hydrant (a photo from the book Figure and Ground)?
Renaldi: I just asked kindly. She was very nice. She was also a Black American Muslim, so I believe that she was coming from a different cultural point of view. By the way that is a chador she was wearing not a burqa.
For your project Touching Strangers you photograph strangers with each other. Is this a special challenge?
Renaldi: Very much so. It takes a lot of tenacity and patience to make those portraits happen. The reason why I started the project in the first place was because I found group portraiture to be a challenge and of great interest. I thought about how I could push that situation of photographing strangers together and that is when the idea of them touching each other came to me.
What ist the idea behind Touching Strangers, what is its special appeal?
Renaldi: I’d prefer the viewer to project onto the images what they see and feel about this situation. That said, at the heart of it I am making artwork that is trying to bring people together and get us to think about our relationships to strangers and our growing disconnection from each other due to technology and mobility.
In Figure and Ground every picture seems to be made in perfect light. How do you accomplish that?
Renaldi: I use all available light and shoot primarily in open shade.
For your book Fall River Boys you portraited the teenagers of the small town Fall River in Massachusetts in black an white. Please explain this project and why you did it.
Renaldi: Fall River feels cool and gray. I had been wanting to shoot a project in black and white and this seemed like the perfect fit. Black and White also subtly refers to days since past and in many respects Fall River had it’s day over a century ago (it had been the largest cotton milling town in the United States in the late 19th century.)
Starting May 8 your pictures from Figure an Ground und Fall River Boys will be exhibited in Robert Morat Galerie in Hamburg. Why should people visit the exhibition?
Renaldi: To experience the works from the vantage point of seeing prints on the wall in a gallery, which is a wholly unique, and different experience than looking at images in a book or online. Additionally, to see the beautiful chromogenic prints up close and in person.