Photos taken through windows anger NYers
By Jake Pearson
Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In one photo, a woman is on all fours, presumably picking something up, her posterior pressed against a glass window. Another photo shows a couple in bathrobes, their feet touching beneath a table. And there is one of a man, in jeans and a T-shirt, lying on his side, napping.
In the photos, taken by New York City artist Arne Svenson from his second-floor apartment, the faces are obscured or not shown. The people are unidentifiable.
But the residents of a glass-walled luxury residential building across the street had no idea they were being photographed and never consented to being subjects for the works of art that are now on display — and for sale — in a Manhattan gallery.
“I don't feel it's a violation in a legal sense, but in a New York, personal sense there was a line crossed,” said Michelle Sylvester, who lives in the residential building called the Zinc Building, which has floor-to-ceiling windows in a neighborhood of cobblestone streets and brick warehouse buildings.
Svenson's apartment is directly across the street, just to the south, giving him a clear view of his neighbors by simply looking out his window.
Svenson's show, “The Neighbors,” opened May 11 at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea, where about a dozen large prints are on sale for up to $7,500. His exhibit is drawing a lot of attention, not for the quality of the work, but for the manner in which it was made.
Svenson did not respond to a request for comment, but says in material accompanying the exhibit that the idea for it came when he inherited a telephoto lens from a friend.
“For my subjects, there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high,” Svenson says in the gallery notes. “The Neighbors don't know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs.”
That explanation has done little to satisfy some residents of the Zinc Building. In an email circulating among the building's owners and renters this week, a resident whose apartment was depicted in Svenson's photographs suggested legal recourse against the artist.
“I am not an expert in this area of the law, but I do think we may have some rights and the ability to stop this,” the email reads.
Civil-rights lawyer Norman Siegel said that, according to New York civil-rights law, there may be a way for Svenson's subjects to challenge him in court, but the case will depend on context.
“The question for the person who's suing is, if you're not identifiable, then where's the loss of privacy?” he said.
Jake Pearson is a staff writer for the Associated Press.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sculpture at Phipps links art and sustainability
- Carnegie International’s success keeps it as one of Pittsburgh’s art gems