Source: USA TODAY
People living in a glass house are throwing verbal stones at a photographer and the exhibition he shot through the windows of their upscale Manhattan apartment complex.
Arne Svenson used a telephoto lense to take the pictures from his own apartment window across the street from the upscale Zinc Building in the city’s tony Tribeca section. One photo prominently displays the backside of a woman on all fours apparently picking something up from her floor; another shows someone napping.
The photos, some residents of the Zinc Building complain, are an invasion of privacy.
“I’m upset because a lot of children live in this building,” one male resident told NBC’s Today show. “I have children, young children, in this building. I’m sure there’s a lot we haven’t seen. I don’t know what he has on film and I think that’s what everybody’s big concern is: What else is there and what else is he planning on doing with them?”
The photos are on display at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea, some with asking prices of thousands of dollars. Svenson said he did nothing wrong, noting that no faces can be seen in the pictures and that his subjects live in apartments featuring floor-to-ceiling windows.
“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.”
The gallery describes it this way:
– Svenson has turned outward from his usual studio based practice to study the daily activities of his downtown Manhattan neighbors as seen through his windows into theirs. Svenson has always combined a highly developed aesthetic sense viewed from the perspective of social anthropology in his eclectic projects with subjects ranging from prisoners to sock monkeys. His projects are almost always instigated by an external or random experience which brings new objects or equipment into his life — in this case he inherited a bird watching telephoto lens from a friend.Local are not impressed.
Michelle Sylvester, who lives in tthe Zinc Building, told the Associated Press there is no legal violation “but in a New York, personal sense there was a line crossed.”
Some gallery patrons were more supportive of art and artist.
“You can’t tell who they are, so I think it’s fine,” one gallery-goer told Today. “That’s mysterious. I love them.”
That explanation has done little to satisfy some residents of the Zinc Building, which houses multimillion-dollar condos. Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel told the Associated Press that, according to New York civil rights law, there may be a way for Svenson’s subjects to challenge him in court.
“The question for the person who’s suing is, if you’re not identifiable, then where’s the loss of privacy?” he told AP. “These issues are a sign of the times. How do you balance the right of privacy vis-à-vis the right of artistic expression?”