Review of Richard Renaldi’s Exhibit

I was very much inspired by Richard Renaldi’s prolific body of work.  The range of portraits stemming from cities throughout the country renders a diversified perspective of American culture.  In my opinion, his photography is very much in the vein of August Sandler, a German portrait photographer of the early twenty-first century.  However, unlike Sandler who aimed at portraying each facet of the populace, Richard documents those subsisting on the fridge of society. I believe his success as a photographer is ultimately rooted in his ability strip his subjects down to their natural state, lending an inexplicable honesty to his work.

Graduating in 1990 from New York University, he started his career, like many other photographers, developing and printing the photographs of others.  However, while towing the line, he was able to afford the time to continue with his own work.  The Christopher street pier, a haven of homeless and drunks ten years back, was his first inspiration.  For five years he documented the lives of those who frequented the dock.  With his 35 mm, Richard accumulated several hundred portraits, which unfortunately went unnoticed by publishers and art critics alike.  Although this rejection was discouraging, he believes that the project reinforced a sense of discipline in his photography.

Renaldi then shifted focus towards the wealthier end of society lacing Madison Avenue. These photographs complemented those taken on the pier, and moreover triggered his transition to an eight by ten camera.  I noticed an evident progression in the manner in which he structured the composition and also in the sincerity projected by his subjects.  It seems as if working with large format redefined his approach towards portraiture, rendering it a more thoughtful process.  The production of taking an 8 by 10 photograph is fairly time consuming and not of the same frivolous nature of digital or even 35 mm.  His decision to begin shooting with larger format is impart responsible for the evident intimacy between him and his subject.  The work stemming from the Upper East Side series landed him a place in the ICP triennial, which in a way dignified his work and fueled his artistic ambition.

From Newark, New Jersey, to Fresno, California, his focused veered towards documenting the individual in the context of the rustic urban environment, unveiling how this intrinsic relationship divulges the circumstances, and even the personality, of the subject.  The photographs generated from this series engender a sense of nostalgia and moreover challenges our preconceived perception of beauty by demonstrating its presence in the grotesque.   Although his art has elegantly evolved over the course of time, the repetition in his photographic approach distinguishes his work stylistically. His photographs are unmistakable even from the Fall River series, wherein he in theory strayed from his style, shifting to black and white and shooting abandoned building rather then strictly portraits.   Given that the camera is an extension of the eye, his photography is ultimately a reaction, or rather a reflection, of life. Richard Renaldi perceives the world around him in a manner unlike any other and it is for this reason that his photography is so unique.


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