Remember 'First Kiss'? 'Touching Strangers' is its creepy cousin

Photographer asked strangers to touch as though they were well-acquainted

It says something about our alienation from each other in modern society that there's such a wealth of art being made about strangers actually having some form of interaction lately, the latest being a series of photographs showing strangers touching or embracing as though they are familiar with one another.

Photographer Richard Renaldi has been touring the US since 2007 pairing strangers and photographing them with an 8-by-10 view camera, and has now compiled a book of his favourite images taken in Albuquerque, Chicago, New York City, southern California and more.

According to a Kickstarter used to fund the book, "Renaldi’s objective was to introduce an unpredictable variable into a traditional photographic formula, and to create spontaneous and fleeting relationships between complete strangers.

"The portraits are extremely difficult to make, involving complex negotiations with the participants that push them past comfort levels, into a physical intimacy normally reserved for loved ones or friends.

"Touching Strangers creates intimate and ephemeral relationships that exist only for the moment of the photograph.

"The images are beautiful and strange, crossing out of the zones of safe physical intimacy with strangers and into deep emotional landscapes never photographed before."

The project follows the 'First Kiss' video from Tatia Pilieva that went viral earlier this year and saw complete strangers asked to kiss passionately on camera.

Chris Boot, executive director of Aperture, the book's publisher, said: "We think these great photographs have something positive to say about human connection . . . about a diverse society in which people have been taught not to touch each other but in which we can and do transcend the boundaries set around us."

Given the subjects' lack of connection, it is often the photographs in which they look the most comfortable that are the most resonant.

Renaldi's work is ongoing, with the photographer asking people around the world to contribute their pictures using the #TouchingStrangers hashtag.

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