Photographer Steps Out of Her Comfort Zone, Touches Strangers on the Streets of New York


I am choosing people to photograph regardless of gender, race, and class, and consciously interacting with my environment. The work is an exploration of my history and the ways I have been guarded and chosen to not speak to strangers. I want to explore going against what I believed to be socially correct. I want to translate my compassionate nature and what I feel for the people I encounter, the space we all share together both socially and environmentally.—Joy Mckinney

New York-based photographer Joy Mckinney is after a shared experience in The Guardian, a series of photographs in which she has touched 74 strangers on the street, creating images that break the barriers of personal space. The project is an experiment of sorts, Mckinney acknowledges along the way her own perceptions about strangers, space, and time were false—rather people were accepting and willing to share in the connection.








  • Interesting, but it looks a bit like smell my finger and less like touching. It might have been nice to see her touching them in different ways (not pervy ways). Like cradling their cheek in her hand or something.

  • Totally agree with Breanna, I fell in love with the first two pics, I think it’s a very good project, but it’s a bit repetitive, it would be interesting to see different ways of contact.

  • Reminds me about Gavin Evans who was exploring similar idea in his two projects “Touch” and “Naked Touch” .

  • Frances Davis

    This was really challenging work for Joy. We raised her to stay away from strangers and have no contact. This was a going against the teachings of at least two generations of teachings! The work says it all, it’s not all about strangers… It’s really about self! I am proud that Joy had the emotional fortitude to challenge core values of our family culture! I hope you see her work from the same lens! I am her only aunt, she calls me “Tee”.

  • I think the hand gesture refers to a blessing rather than perversity. If anything, the gesture is meant to be seen simply as physical contact. There was clearly a lot of thought put into this project, treat it with respect.

    Anyway, what intrigues me the most is the choice of red nail polish.

  • Jessica Tidmore

    I don’t remotely find anything “creepy” or “pervy” about these photos! The point was to breach boundaries and personal space with absolute strangers in the street. How better to do that than to touch then dead center in their face? Lips and all. That takes trust on the subjects part of the “unknown lady with a camera” and on her part as “the strange lady with a camera”. I LOVE the choice in red nail polish. Great shot.

  • Paul’s Pictures

    “I want to translate my compassionate nature and what I feel for the people I encounter, the space we all share together both socially and environmentally” I understand this as an honourable and noble intention. However, and PLEASE do not take this as rude or any kind of insult or attack, I don’t see here anything of the artist’s compassionate nature (despite the hand gesture which some may interpret as a “blessing” here it isn’t coming across like that. In fact it could be seen as just the opposite “in your face” kind of insulting) nor do I see any positive feelings towards the subjects. I understand it could be like a “step” on the path to trust and “touching”. In that context it may be a good start. I congratulate Joy on the idea, and the effort. May I just suggest that “touching” in such a way, while it appears intimate, is actually rather superficial (which may be to do with the evolving nature of the artist). It could even elicit humour, and that’s a good thing of course..unless it’s at the expense of the subjects. And perhaps it was the only kind of touching that could work for the artist at the time. I know some people will disagree, but I feel SP is about the artist AND the subject. These are not about the subject at all. That’s fine, not judging, just saying!
    Please not all: I am not being rude, at least not intending to. I am not judging, just voicing opinion. Street photography arouses passions which is exactly as it should be. My comments here are more for the artist than they are for others. I offer then with love and respect for what is after all a TRULY interesting and I have no doubt evolving project and theme. I hope I have not made anyone angry. If I have I am sorry.

  • Ian

    Great, fresh, concept… needs to go further with interactions… keep going!

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