Touchy feely.

I came across a photo gallery recently. It fascinates me. This photographer Richard Renaldi walked the streets and asked strangers to take pictures together. Here’s the catch: they had to be touching.

Now Renaldi started small at first. He would have his subjects touch each other maybe only on the shoulders or elbows. but after a while, he began to request that they pose as though they knew each other. Some of these strangers look so comfortable with each other. Remember they have only just met.

It’s fascinating to me because it really explores the area of our comfort zone. I read a study once that said physical touch is more effective at creating emotion than any other avenue. It was once believed that touch simply accompanied sight and smell and hearing in creating emotion. But a test was conducted in which the subjects were blindfolded and touched in several different manners. The subjects felt a range of feelings, from disgust to happiness. It’s amazing how a little thing like touching can have such a big impact on us.

There’s really no danger or harm in simply touching someone. Putting your hand on someone else’s back isn’t going to make you contract a disease and die. But still we have such strong feelings about physically interacting with others.

Perhaps it’s because we value our own bodies so much. Really, our bodies are the most concrete part of who we are. We take so much pride in our own selves that how we let our bodies interact with each other is a big deal.

In this picture, The man is homeless. The photographer wanted to take a picture of him with a white woman to show the contrast of the middle class white female and homeless black male. The white women he asked, however, refused. Maybe this is because these women associate homelessness with filth. It seems to make sense that these women believe themselves important enough to not want to interact with anything unclean or not pleasant.

Maybe physical touch is such a big deal because we believe that our bodies are the part of ourselves over which we have the most control. Think about it. We can’t control our thoughts as well as we can control which way to walk. The part of us which is most controlled by us is the part of us which is most protected by us. (This could bring me to a whole sermon on protecting our minds and hearts, but that’s for another time.)

Whatever the case may be, It is safe to say that Touch is a big deal and this photographer hit it right on the nose when he asked people to touch strangers.  By doing this, he asks the people to step out of their comfort zone and open themselves up to someone new. Do what you will with this, but I am enthralled.

That is all.


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