For This Art Project, You Need To Touch A Stranger And Pretend You Like Him

Richard Renaldi is a 45-year-old New York artist with this crazy idea. For the love of art, you need to snuggle with a stranger and pretend you like him.

But this isn’t Renaldi’s first project. He also wrote a book which recently met its funding goal on Kickstarter. The book Touching Strangers explores the (awkward) intimacy between passersby on the street.

His project is about selecting random strangers and taking a photo of them in affectionate poses. He became a huge hit in New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

” I got rejected doing this project. Like, a lot,” he says. “At least 60% of the people I asked wanted nothing to do with me.”

Richard said that he got inspired to do this project by another book project, See America By Bus, in which he photographed travelers at Greyhound stations across the U.S.

“The majority of those photos were individual portraits,” he says, “but I’d occasionally come across two or more strangers sitting on a bench. I’d of course ask if they were okay with being photographed with the other person. Then I thought, ‘This in itself could make for a cool series.'”

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He wasn’t sure what he wanted at first, but then  he found a pair of college-aged students, a guy and a girl, and asked them to pose as if they were a couple.

He found his inspiration again, and he found another college-aged girl and a middle-aged woman.

“The girl was much more receptive, but the older woman was a little stiff about the idea,” he says. “You can tell in the photo that their body language is not the most comfortable.”

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The name of the project was suggested by a woman who was a part of the project.

“As we were saying goodbye, she asked me if I had a name for the project, and I said ‘Strangers Touching,'” he says. “And then she just looked at me and said, ‘No. You need to call it Touching Strangers.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s better.'”

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This wasn’t a full-time project that Richard was working on. He had to work plenty of other side jobs as well. He took his project to different parts of New York and the country, looking for the right photograph.

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A lot of people declined to join Richard and his project, but says he was pleasantly surprised with the number of “good sports” he was able to find.

“I learned that people have this deep, universal desire to connect with other people. I’m just the facilitator, the one making it happen here, but I think it partially comes from my own desires as well,” he says. “It’s not just a social experiment — maybe it’s something in me that’s looking for connection, too.”

h/t: Richard Renaldi