“Try Crown Heights.. They’re More Open There”

Photographer Richard Renaldi is a ‘matchmaker’ for tense times, asking complete strangers to pose together for a portrait. On a recent afternoon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it was not going well. He wanted to pose an Orthodox Jewish man with someone from outside the Orthodox community.

“It’s going to take all the cajoling I can do,” Mr. Renaldi, 45, said. “There’s a lot of barriers.”

There were, in fact, more barriers than he knew. After terse rejections from several people, a man named Abraham Weiss stopped to look at Mr. Renaldi’s large-format, 8-by-10 view camera. Mr. Renaldi made his best pitch.

Mr. Weiss seemed to go back and forth. He ran a photo printing business and understood the project, he told Mr. Renaldi. But he feared censure from his fellow ultra-Orthodox neighbors. “You have to understand the culture,” he said. If he posed for Mr. Renaldi, someone might see him, take a picture and post it on Twitter. “That could be bad for me,” he said. “Posing for it, that’s the problem. They don’t like imaging.”

As if on cue, a car slowed and the driver photographed Mr. Weiss with his cellphone. “You see,” Mr. Weiss said. He had one suggestion for Mr. Renaldi: “Try Crown Heights or Borough Park. They’re more open there.”

 Read More: @ crownheights.info

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