Disturbed Harmonies, Richard Renaldi's photography

Richard Renaldi Disturbed Harmonies

Desert Sagebrush, 2023

Amazon Forest Dragon, 2022

Queensland Bottle Tree, 2022

Virginian Dogwood, 2023

Stratocumulus Castellanus, 2023

Scots Pine, 2023

Domestic Dogs, 2023

Stick Bug, 2023

Painted Wall, 2023

Callery Pear, 2023

Artist's statement

Men are troubled across this troubled Earth. Economic and political power have failed to assuage their anxiety. Physical strength offers only the illusion of protection. Although male supremacy was never foreordained, either by history or biology, the obsessions of powerful men have haunted the past and reshaped the natural world. 

What is the source of this disquiet?
Is it that men are more likely than women to commit and to suffer acts of deadly violence, to be conscripted into military combat, to be jailed, subjected to corporal punishment, or executed? Is it their lower life expectancy? Perhaps the scriptural mandate to have dominion over every moving thing upon the earth was a bit too much pressure. Modern biblical scholars, working with newer, more accurate translations of the ancient Hebrew texts, have established that the term ‘ādām — the first inhabitant of the garden, commanded “to dress it and to keep it” — is not a proper noun, but rather a generic word meaning “human.” The term is not gendered male. Yet centuries of mistranslation abetted a tilt in men’s favour.
New threads of archaeological and anthropological inquiry — as well as new ways of reading old data — have begun to reveal that male-dominated societies are relatively modern inventions. The exact mechanisms by which men have arrogated power over the last few thousand years are not fully understood, however. For now, literature and art must fill the narrative gaps. The loss of paradise seems to have triggered an anger-displacement syndrome from which proceeded millennia of burning, chopping, mining, damming, slaughtering, shooting, conquering, and otherwise disturbing the earth and its creatures.

From herbs and fruits grew thistles and thorns. In 1864, at the height of the US Civil War, the American conservationist and diplomat George Perkins Marsh published Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. He argued that there was impending danger in man’s assumption that he had triumphed over nature. Five years earlier, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species had explained where humans had come from; Man and Nature foretold where they were going. Marsh wrote that man was “breaking up the floor and wainscoting and doors and window frames of our dwelling.” Ninety eight years before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and over a century before Exxon scientists quietly proved the growing threat of anthropogenic climate change, and then invoked a silence to which they had no right, Marsh argued that man was the prime “disturber of nature’s harmonies.”
My photographs represent Marsh’s disturbed harmonies. They express an artist’s desire to pull men back into parallel with a natural world from which they have gone badly out of true. Each diptych is an equivalent, every face an enigmatic globe whose geographies, histories, and political divisions challenge us to interrogate more fully their tectonic pressures. For centuries, ancient instruments like astrolabes and orreries described the shape and station of the known world. We may have forgotten how to read them, but they still point towards home.

About the photographer


Chicago, United States, 1968



Based in

New York, United States

About Richard Renaldi

On graduating from New York University in 1990, Renaldi worked as a researcher and editor at Magnum Photos and Impact Visuals. At this time, he started the first of many long-term projects, a series of street portraits on Madison Avenue. They were included in STRANGERS: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video at the International Center of Photography, New York (2003).

Renaldi’s work has also been shown at the George Eastman Museum in New York and the Museum of the City of New York.

Renaldi is the author of five books, including a visual autobiography, I Want Your Love (Super Labo, 2018). The others are Richard Renaldi: Figure and Ground (Aperture, 2006); Fall River Boys (Charles Lane Press, 2009); Touching Strangers (Aperture, 2014); and Manhattan Sunday (Aperture, 2016). His project Billions Served was featured in The New Yorker and the Financial Times.

In 2015, Renaldi received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

He has served as an adjunct faculty member at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and at Harvard University. In 2019, he was the Henry Wolf Chair in Photography at the Cooper Union, New York.

In 2008, Renaldi founded Charles Lane Press, dedicated to publishing lesser-known or emerging photographers and overlooked projects.

Since 2004, he has been involved with Visual AIDS as an archive member, fundraiser and supporter. In 2011, he received the Bill Olander Award, honouring his commitment to art activism, AIDS advocacy, HIV prevention, education and support of other artists with HIV/AIDS.