If you spend time traveling around the rest of the world, especially in places deemed "developing" — you will find that people are much friendlier, and much less afraid of strangers than Americans. It wasn't always like this in the U.S. of course, but "stranger danger" and the very small chance that someone you don't know will do you harm, or at the very least, can't be trusted, has been engrained in several generations of American kids, so that now most of us look at those we don't know with suspicion and distrust (whereas in most other places in the world, strangers are invited to dinner).
Photographer Richard Renaldi, in his own way, is trying to change that. Simply, he brings together perfect strangers and takes portraits of them in cozy, sometimes almost intimate poses. He told the New York Times's Lens Blog (where you can see a beautiful slideshow of his images), "For a lot of people, it’s an exercise for them to be able to push their own comfort level,” when he asks random folks off the street to pose for him.
Renaldi has good luck with his requests, although some groups are harder to bring together than others. He told the Times it took him three years to find a Muslim woman who would be in a photo, and he had difficulties taking a shot of an Orthodox Jewish man with his large-format camera. Most interesting about this project, as is documented in the video below, is that some of the people come away with a sense of affection and caring for the person they are photographed with, even though they are just posing. Perhaps this portraiture is more than meets the eye.
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