21-Aug, 16:51

10:55, March 27 179 0

2017-03-27 10:55:02
When the Party’s Over, He Picks Up His Camera

The black-and-white photo shows two buff young men in matching “I ♥ NY” tank tops, buzz cuts and striped athletic socks, standing in a middle of a deserted Manhattan street, their muscular arms intertwined in a tender embrace.

It’s not clear if they are new friends, old lovers or something in between. The date of the photograph is also unclear.

“This night could have happened 20 years ago or 20 years in the future,” said Richard Renaldi, 48, a photographer who lives in the West Village. “I knew that I wanted these to be sort of more dreamlike and a fantasy.”

The image is among the 130 or so featured in a new book, “Manhattan Sunday” (Aperture), a selection of which are on display at the Eastman Museum in Rochester. For six years starting in 2010, Mr. Renaldi visited New York City’s nightclubs and documented patrons between midnight and 10 on Sunday mornings, often on their way back home.

While night-life personalities like Honey Dijon and Ladyfag can be spotted in the mix, most of the portraits are of nameless club-goers. There are no identifying captions, other than the time of the shutter click.

The book is Mr. Renaldi’s fourth and, unlike his previous monographs (mostly portraits of strangers across the United States), this one comes from a very personal place: His fascination with New York night life. His obsession with the club scene and disco music began in the late 1970s, as a child growing up in the Chicago area and dancing in the living room to Donna Summer and the Village People.

“I don’t know if my siblings were aware what the song ‘Fire Island’ was about,” he said with a grin.

When he was 11, his parents took him on family outings to Zorine’s, a popular Chicago dance club. And in 1986, while visiting colleges in New York, his father took him and a high school friend to Danceteria, a famous downtown club, although they were underage at the time.

“He had the savoir faire to give the doorman a $20 bill,” he said.

He enrolled in New York University, studying photography by day and dancing at night, becoming a regular at places like the World, Mars and Palladium. He kept clubbing through the 1990s at hot spots like the Roxy, SqueezeBox and, his favorite, the Sound Factory.

“Sound Factory for me was my golden era,” he said, recalling the diversity of the crowd. “It was so New York, with kids from all over the city.”

In 1996, he learned he was H.I.V.-positive and pulled back from the scene. A couple of years later, he met his long-term partner Seth Boyd, an architectural photographer, and began taking his photography seriously. He had his first solo show in 2002 at the Debs & Co. gallery, now defunct, in Chelsea, where he showed large-scale portraits of wealthy Upper East Side women he had encountered on Madison Avenue.

Encouraged and accompanied by Mr. Boyd, he ventured back into the club scene. Several years later, in 2010, he combined his two passions and began setting up his Wisner 8-by-10 view camera outside of clubs like Roseland, Pacha and the Eagle, as revelers stumbled out at dawn on Sunday.

“The other people you saw beside the clubbers were the street cleaners,” he said. “There was this nice dichotomy between the mess makers and the ones cleaning up after them.”

In 2015, after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, Mr. Renaldi took his project inside clubs as well, shooting at gay-friendly parties like Brut at Santos House and Holy Mountain at Slake. That created additional challenges, like having to maneuver a large camera around a sweaty dance floor. Another challenge was the urge to squeeze in some play.

“A couple times I partied and then in the morning when things were winding down, I took out the camera and started to shoot; that was a little wacky,” he said. “A couple times I photographed first and then put the camera away and had fun afterward. That was the smarter way of doing it.”