First a confession. I am crazy for double portraits. I have no idea why and I’m sure if I could afford a psychiatrist, perhaps he or she could find an answer. I’ve been adding photographs with two people in them to my collection for over 40 years. The Pastry Chefs by Irving Penn, Bruce Weber’s Boys from Red Cloud, Nebraska, and Ken Probst’s Tattooed Twins, San Diego to name a few.
So when I saw the posting about Richard Renaldi’s photos on the Wessel + O’Connor Fine Art Gallery website, naturally my ears perked up. Yes, they are double portraits, but beyond that they are strikingly insightful portraits of a committed couple during life’s quieter moments. Richard’s camera captures the couple in environments that doesn’t generally equate to domesticity. The portraits are taken in an assortment of hotel rooms, motel rooms, and even a train compartment.
According to the Wessel + O’Connor website, the images were taken over a period of 13 years and the couple is Richard and his partner Seth. Richard has to travel for business and is occasionally accompanied by Seth. In the hours that are not occupied by Richard’s work, he has photographed himself with Seth experiencing the unaffected, gentler side of a relationship. Lounging, cuddling, getting ready to go out for a meal or a night on the town.
Richard’s compositions are certainly posed, yet they do not feel in any way formal. Richard and Seth’s focus is more often than not to the camera. It is as if you just opened the door to a room (and their life together) and caught them in an unguarded moment. The series expresses more about the nature of a long-lasting relationship than any grouping of formal family portraits can. Richard’s photographs show a couple that has grown comfortable over the years with each other and with the camera.
I had the chance to ask Richard a couple of questions regarding the series.
PW: Was there any particular event or image that was the genesis of the series?
RR: I think the earliest image is from when we went to Chincoteague in 1999. The cobwebs are pretty thick but I think there was some intention back then that we would be photographing ourselves when we traveled. When we started off our relationship it was initially a long distance one and during that first year or so there must have been an impetus to record our time together. As a matter of fact we have photos that we took of each other on the very first day we met.
PW: These portraits are so personal, was there any hesitation in your and Seth’s mind in exhibiting them?
RR: No hesitation. They have been out there on my website for a while and the reactions have been mostly positive. We have definitely been conscious of the imagery not crossing the line into the realm of the erotic or pornographic. We much more want to show the process of aging and physical change, as well as the evolution of our intimacy. These images also serve as an interesting document about the architecture of hospitality.
Richard also told me that they intend to continue the series well into old age.
The series is being shown by The Wessel + O’Connor Gallery
Wessel + O’Connor
7 North Main Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530
Photo above: Dillon, South Carolina, 2011
All photographs copyright the artist.