Most of the time, those of us who live in busy urban areas do our best to avoid bumping into or grazing the hands of our fellow city-dwellers. We’re too afraid of being admonished for violating someone’s personal space, too aware of when our own personal space feels threatened. But when given permission to actually touch one another, to share a bit of intimacy, everything transforms. That’s what photographer Richard Renaldi is trying to provide with his “Touching Strangers” photo series. For the project, Renaldi poses two (or three) perfect strangers together, giving them them the opportunity to safely explore intimacy with an unknown. You can see how the experience transforms people — from awkwardly trying to maintain a sense of personal space, to finally relaxing their bodies and leaning into the experience. “We are probably missing so much about the people all around us,” said one willing participant in the project. Truly, we are. Which is why Renaldi’s “Strangers” series is so powerful: It offers us a glimpse at what could be, or might have been, between two people. A book featuring many of his photos will be coming out soon on the nonprofit Aperture Foundation press. [Instinct Magazine]
After that mild controversy we stirred up over strangers telling us to smile, this graphic, from illustrator Kris Atomic perfectly illuminates my feelings on the subject. If you feel like this applies to you, Ms. Atomic even offers this illustration as a poster – one which could be easily stapled to your forehead, or worn as a hat. Click through to see the poster enlarged.
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How many zillions of times in you life have you been told by a random stranger on the street to “smile”? While the sentiment may at first seem harmless, the implication is that women only exist to be objectified by men — that by not smiling, we’re not fulfilling our end of the bargain. It’s a subtler form of street harassment, but no less a reminder that some men feel entitled to dictate what women do with their bodies. I mean, have you ever, ever walked up to a random man and told him to smile? Didn’t think so.
With that in mind, some anonymous anti-smile harassment vigilante has been putting up these awesome posters in the Bed-Sty neighborhood of Brooklyn. Thanks, stranger, for saying what I’m thinking but never remember to actually voice in the moment.
What do you do when someone tells you to smile?
Update: The artist behind the posters has been identified. Her name is Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and she also sells the drawings as tee-shirts.