One custom I had to get used to living in France was the imminent bisou or bise — the cheek-to-cheek double kiss used to greet each other. Being introduced to new people, running into someone on the street, leaving a party required you to bisou everyone, lest you be that rude foreigner.
I understand its purpose — to break down physical barriers and create intimacy — but it never came naturally to me and it was always a bit of a toss up whether I would go for the bisou or not. In North America, we typically limit physical contact with strangers to a handshake and watching this video made me think about how we can connect with strangers when “stranger danger” has been so ingrained in us.
New York-based photographer, Richard Renaldi has been taking pictures of strangers touching each other for eight years. He picks random people off the street and asks them to physically interact while posing for a portrait. His project, Touching Strangers, speaks to the fundamental connection we have to each other beyond race, class, and age.
The project gained so much interest that the Aperture Foundation partnered with Richard and Kickstarter to publish a photobook of the portraits. It is being released in May 2014.
Every time I watch the video, it leaves me wondering: what happened after? Do they go about their day like nothing happened? Do they exchange Facebook pages?