Street strangers’ pictures depict long-term relations

If you know me well enough, you would know that I am sarcastic, cynical and sometimes not too easily approached.

That is not to say, however, that I am not friendly. I just find humans’ relationships with one other – or with animals, for that matter – confusing and complex.

I would even say that oftentimes I say, “I hate people,” around those I am comfortable with. They know they’re not included in that overgeneralization of mine and some of them even agree with my sentiment.

Everybody, at one point in their lives – or even days – admits to “hating people.” It’s most likely not because they’re hard to talk to, but because they’re hard to forge real relationships with.

My beliefs about human-human relationships have been significantly challenged by one post I read Monday on elitedaily.com.

Apparently, photographer Richard Renaldi took photos of random people he met on the streets of New York City, asking them to pose in pictures together as if they were family members, friends or lovers.

My initial reaction was amusement. The idea looked harmless and actually yielded important results.

That reaction quickly turned to fear. People are courageous, I thought. I find the idea of actually posing with strangers in the street and making it look as if I’ve known them forever is not only daunting, but unthinkable. For starters, I can barely do that with people I have known for years.

The concept wasn’t even the weird part. The pictures depicted that those strangers shared a seemingly life-long bond. Some of them, of course, conveyed the awkwardness of the situation, but most pictures looked completely real.

The video posted on the website noted that the people in those pictures felt awkward and tense around each other at first, but these feelings changed to those of friendship in a matter of 10 minutes. A young poetry teacher even said that at the end, he felt like he cared for his 95-year-old partner.

Being people-adverse myself, the story baffled me. And like any person who doesn’t like her beliefs questioned, I went ahead and did some research.

Research from 2010 showed that momentary touches – whether an exuberant high five, a warm hand on the shoulder, or a creepy touch to the arm – can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, and sometimes do so more quickly and accurately than words.

The science of the importance of physical contact in maintaining relationships – romantic or platonic ones – is not a new one, of course. After all, that’s how the world started.

The research does, however, shed some light on physical contact’s importance in forging new relationships with complete strangers.

The relationships forged in these quick photos made me think of how much I, and many people, don’t know about those around us. That is not to say that people should go around touching each other.

But if a simple touch forged a “caring” relationship between two strangers, imagine what a conversation might yield.

 

HIBA ALMASRI

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