Richard Renaldi 

Aaron and Linda, Fresno, California 

Aaron and Linda, Fresno, California

About the artist

Richard Renaldi photographs America. His subject: the people. On his travels with his view camera across the 50 states that compose the nation, project after project, he is composing a portrait of middle America, one of towns and main streets rather than suburbs and deserted freeways leading to ubiquitous shopping malls. The America he is drawn to and strives to describe is one that bears the scars of its history. His subject is human rather than urban tissue.
Renaldi likes to undertake large projects, which he conducts over long periods - 7 Years for Figure and Ground (which these two images are from), 10 years for Fall River Boys. All of his projects are pervaded by the same humanity, a form of empathy between photographer and subject that emerges on the surface of the image, however brief the encounter. In a more recent body of work, Touching Strangers, he expanded the contact surface by inviting two strangers (who don’t know each other and who he himself has just approached on the street) to come before his camera and touch each other - hand, shoulder, whatever, provided they make the connection.
Renaldi’s work recreates connections in an environment that is following a path of disintegration all the same.


What is a portraitist to you?
I define a portraitist as an artist concerned with capturing another persons image. I would say a successful portraitist will emphasize their subjects 'being' and allow them  to occupy the frame but still be in control of what is happening within that frame.  I think this is done best when there is a respect for the subjects humanity and the person is approached as an equal. I'm not sure a single photograph or painting has the power to capture the true essence of a person but I think it is possible that successful portraits can touch on a part of some deeper sense of the self.

Are these Fresno portraits part of a larger body of work?
Yes from a project I did in 2003-2004. The work from Fresno was woven into my 2006 Aperture book Figure and Ground. Figure and Ground was sequenced to be a journey across the United States from the East to West . It was culled from several different projects, amongst them Madison Ave. Portraits, Newark, Bus Travelers, LA Street, and Fresno.

What was your primary interest in this city?
Fresno is a mid sized city that has a real California feeling to it. It is in the heart of the central valley where most of America's produce is grown. When I first passed through Fresno, I noticed that there was a special quality to the light and the city felt like it was languishing. I was shooting a project in Newark, NJ at the time which is a city of comparable size and status. Fresno felt like a natural west coast counterpoint. Both of these places are not celebrated American cities and in some regards even looked down upon. I felt compelled to find life and beauty in these two towns and highlight that through my photography.

How do you choose and approach your subjects?
I do the majority of my casting right on the street. This is done usually through the construct of a project I am doing on a specific place or theme. There is a lot of scouting involved when I am looking for a person/s to photograph but I would also have to give randomness and serendipity their due. I am generally drawn to urban and rural areas and would say that I have intentionally neglected working in the suburbs. I am looking for people that are attractive to my eye and appear to me to have something worthy of capturing on film. I approach my subjects with a simple introduction and sometimes I will show them examples of my photographs.

Do you give them directions and place them, or do you photograph them on the spot, right after asking?
I generally always give directions. Sometimes they may walk with me until I find an appropriate background. Occasionally I may be set up in a specific location and be waiting for a subject to walk by. In the case of my Touching Strangers project once I have made an agreement with the first subject they have to wait with the camera until I find their companion/s.

Would you say you're attracted to a particular kind of person in your photographic work?
I am drawn to people that look like they have a story, ones whom you sense that there is some strong narrative behind that face and body. I am also interested in issues of social class and economic inequality and try to subtlety introduce those themes in my work.

In your latest works - Fall River Boys, Great Plains - you depict America feeling the pain, whole areas of the country suffering from population loss and a feeling of abandonment.  Quite a lot of photography has been done on post-industrialisation disasters, mostly focused on the aesthetics of the modern ruin, but very few engage as you do with the human aspect of things. Do you consider that, in a way, your work is political, that project after project, your photography is sketching a kind of social landscape of your country?
Yes, I would agree with you that I am exploring those themes in my work.  I am conscious however of making sure I do this quietly and as a part of my larger artistic and creative vision.

Limited edition, numbered and signed. 

Selected shows and awards

Touching Strangers, Foosaner Art Museum, Melbourne, FL, 2016
Hotel Room Portraits, The Florida Museum of Photografic Arts, Tampa, FL, 2015
Touching Strangers, Loyola Marymount University Laband Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, 2015
Touching Strangers, Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, IL, 2015
Touching Strangers, SFO Museum, San Francisco, CA, 2015
Touching Strangers, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, 2015
Touching Strangers, Photo Center Northwest, Seattle, WA, 2014
Touching Strangers, The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC, 2014
Touching Strangers, Staugatuck Center of the Arts, Saugatuck, MI, 2014
This Grand Show, Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New-York, 2014
Touching Strangers, Aperture Gallery, New-York, 2014
Hotel Room Portraits, Wessel and O'Connor Fine Art, New Hope, P.A, 2012
Touching Strangers, Third Floor Gallery, Cardiff, Wales, 2012
Young Men and Strangers, Fotografins Hus, Stockholm, 2011
Touching Strangers, Hermès Foundation, New York, 2010
Fall River Boys, Sol Mednick Gallery, Philadelphia, 2010
Fall River Boys and Figure & Ground, Robert Morat Galerie, Hamburg, 2010
Fall River Boys, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, 2009
Western Lives, Nicolaysen Art Museum and Discovery Center, Casper, 2007
The Plains, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, 2007
LA Street, Western Project, Los Angeles, 2005
Fresno/Newark, Debs and Co, New York, 2003
Project Room - Madison Avenue Portraits, Debs and Co, New York, NY, 2002

Selected publications

Fall River Boys, Charles Lane Press, 2009
Richard Renaldi: Western Lives, Nicolaysen Art Museum, 2007
Figure and Ground, Aperture, 2006


& order

Richard Renaldi 
Aaron and Linda, Fresno, California


Technical information

Pigment print on Ilford Gold Fiber Silk paper - limited edition, numbered and signed certificate.


30 x 37 cm, Edition of 50 250.00 €

By the same artist

Richard Renaldi

By the same curator

ART LIGUE Opening with Jörg Colberg