Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Touching Ambiguity- Richard Renaldi

Richard Renaldi: As good as it ever gets!

I usually (usually) steer clear of putting down other people's work- unless it's particularly offensive in some manner. And work that I'm ambivalent about is particularly hazardous, since I'm not sure exactly what I'm conflicted about, let alone how to go about expressing it. Of course, that's the work one should most analyze and discuss since that's the kinda stuff you just may learn something from...

And that's pretty much the way that Richard Renaldi's Touching Strangers strikes me; there are photographs in there that border on transcendent, and others that just leave me cold and feel anywhere from trite to exploitative. Some undoubtedly live off the well composed, feel good, snapshot vibe of Humans of New York; and others feel like everything just gels- emotionally and aesthetically. Well Stan, that's the way strong bodies of portraiture work, you're not gonna like each and every one of 'em. True enough, and lord knows we've all been through the mill as to what portraits can actually "reveal" about anyone, anyway. The problem with Touching Strangers is that there are so many times when I don't even trust my own judgement- is the very premise of its unconventional raison d'etre (photographing complete strangers in such close personal proximity) clouding and prejudicing my judgement? I honestly don't know. Does that mean he has at the very least succeeded as an artist- even if I don't like many of the photographs? Quite likely.

We all know that photographs lie, now we are also forced to deal with the degree of feigned connection and spontaneity these people project because of each other- and these portraits purportedly portray. Or has Renaldi actually managed to both initiate and capture the human bond of interconnectedness lying nascent within us all? Perhaps that seeded sense of ambiguity is why his project works so well- at least on certain levels. And perhaps it is also the gimmick that it so successfully exploits to make us look past it's more obvious weaknesses. Or maybe, maybe I just resent the fact that I have to share in the work here and struggle to make up my mind over and over again about each and every factor, concerning each and every person, in each and every portrait.

Like I said, I'm on the fence about a lotta these- and that ain't gonna clear up anytime soon...

Richard Renaldi- Not quite feeling it (is that the point?)... Are the "failures" also a success? A fail proof project?

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