NYC artist's secret photos raise privacy issues
A visitor views the photography of Arne Svenson on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at the Julie Saul Gallery in New York. Residents of a New York luxury apartment building are upset over the exhibition by Svenson who secretly made their pictures from his window across the street. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
NEW YORK (AP) — 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 as he takes a nap.
In all 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 they 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 stands out with its floor-to-ceiling windows in a neighborhood of cobblestone streets and old, brick warehouse buildings.
Photography of Arne Svenson hangs inside the Julie Saul Gallery on Thursday, May 16, 2013 in New York. Residents of a New York luxury apartment building are upset over the exhibition by Svenson who secretly made their pictures from his window across the street. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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.
"I think there's an understanding that when you live here with glass windows, there will be straying eyes but it feels different with someone who has a camera," Sylvester said.
Svenson's show, "The Neighbors," opened last Saturday 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 from The Associated Press, but says in material accompanying the exhibit that the idea for it came when he inherited a telephoto lens from a friend, a birdwatcher who recently died.
"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."