Secret photos of residents in New York City are stirring up controversy and a discussion of the boundaries of art and privacy.
The secret photos of residents have been taken by Arne Svenson, whose exhibit “The Neighbors” has raised a debate over whether art should trump privacy. The exhibit opened this week at Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea on Saturday and already showed at L.A.’s Western Project earlier this year.
Svenson took the pictures from his second-floor loft across the street from the residents. He used a bird-watching Telephoto lens, reminiscent of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window. Many of the photos show people in their homes, reclining on beds or bending over to pick up unseen items.
Residents of the Tribeca apartment building where the pictures were taken are angry with the exhibition, and some are reportedly considering legal action against Arne Svenson.
“This is about kids. If he’s waiting there for hours with his camera, who knows what kind of footage he has. I can recognize items from my daughter’s bedroom,” one resident told the New York Post.
Legal experts aren’t so sure if they have a case. The secret photos of residents were taken at a distance from the glass and steel tower, leaving the faces of residents obscured or blurred.
The gallery’s owner, Julie Sal, said she is shocked at the negative reaction the exhibit has gotten.
“They think it’s beautiful. What really resonates is the quietness and contemplativeness and universality. You can really relate to the characters, who are completely unidentifiable – and that was deliberate.”
Svenson has a more innocent take on the secret photos of residents. He compares himself to a bird-watcher “quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or a movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within.”