Figure and Ground
Fall River Boys
Charles Lane Press 2009
There is no convoluted ideological structure in Richard Renaldi’s photographs. He creates them by wandering through America in search of images. Most of the time, those images happen to be of people. This approach resonates within a tradition of American photographers and remains a beautiful gesture that radiates through all of his work, and especially his books.
Figure and Ground, as defined by its title, is a collection of portraits and landscapes created throughout various trips taken through the United States. At a time when many Americans looked inward for a national identity, Renaldi took to the streets to reveal the character of our country. Renaldi depicts the quiet lives of Americans captured with his large format camera and subtle use of light. We are taken through cafes, Greyhound stations, fast food restaurants, skateboarding spots and tattoo parlors. Many of his subjects are photographed in the middle of their own travels across the country. This reoccurring visual motif resonates as one of the books simplest gestures, but Renadli’s ability to nuance the figure makes nearly every portrait worth looking at repeatedly.
Fall River Boys, Renaldi’s second book, focuses on the specific geographic location of the now industrially defunct Fall River, Massachusetts. This volume contains 89 portraits and landscapes that chip away at idea of the transition into manhood in a town whose industry has essentially collapsed. The subjects in this series are seen with an emotional depth that avoids the pitfalls of cliché; the boys of Fall River have lead what appear no be normal lives, yet they are depicted with grace and sophistication that transcend stereotype. The hulking architecture of Fall River provides a literal backdrop in the images, but as the sequence unfolds the buildingsbecome pauses between the already hushed portraits. The harmonies created between the solid buildings and honestexpressions deliver quite a powerful message.
Fall River Boys is also the first book published by Charles Lane Press, a collaborative venture between Richard Renaldi and Seth Boyd. The production is outstanding and matched with equally dense subject matter. If this is any indication of their forthcoming books, Charles Lane Press will consistently be a place to return to for inspiration.