Tuesday, June 4, 2013
A photographer in New York City used a telephoto lens to capture candid images of his neighbors in their homes, going about their daily lives. And then he sold them.
He described it as art. They described it as, “Say WHAT?!?”
According to the Associated Press, Arne Svenson took pictures of residents in a building across the street from his Tribeca home. The images depict mundane activities such as putting a child to bed, talking on the phone or taking a nap.
The photos are now on exhibit at an art gallery. The project is called “The Neighbors,” and the gallery describes it as “social documentation.” The neighbors describe it as outrageous, and are furious that pieces of their lives are selling for up to $8,000 a pop.
Since no faces are fully visible, Svenson claims he did nothing wrong. His subjects disagree vehemently. “I don’t feel comfortable knowing someone was pointing a camera into [my home] with a telephoto lens,’’ one female resident said.
Reactions from AP readers vary from “meh” to “shoot this dude.” Here’s a sampling:
“The photographer is not trespassing… there’s no invasion of privacy when you can be seen through a window.”
“The idea of someone capturing MY special moments with MY child inside my own home without my permission, and then displayed for everyone to see, is beyond an invasion.”
“You can’t tell who they are, so I think it’s fine.”
“When I am out in public, I have no expectations of privacy. When I am at home, I do. I would sue him all the way to the Supreme Court.”
“Don't want your picture taken? Close your freakin' curtains!”
Can you imagine this happening in South Carolina? Ol’ Arne would have his camera handed back to him in pieces. Not because we’re a bunch of inbred rednecks, but because decent people don’t snoop, or sell the results of their snoopage. Still… people pay big bucks for views in NYC, but apparently don’t realize that when they can see out, everyone else can see in.
This, friends, is exactly why my blinds stay closed even out in the country. (Except in our office, where I watch the po-po ticket speeders on Highway 17-A while I write.)
Now and then Widdle says, “It’s like living in a mausoleum around here!” and starts flinging curtains wide and raising the blinds. I follow behind him squawking, “People can SEE US, you freak!” and snatching them closed. It’s a jolly moment.
I realize I’m weird about this. I will blithely feed Roy the Rooster in the yard wearing my pink Hello Kitty bathrobe, but the idea of someone outside taking a photo of me inside makes my skin crawl. Although a photographer with a zoom lens would die of boredom, because this is what he’d find:
Me reading. Me reading. Me reading.
Nicky throwing up on the dining room rug.
Me looking for a screwdriver. Me looking for wood glue. Me looking for the special screws that Widdle hides from me. Me kicking the broken cabinet door and saying, “Fix it yourself.”
Widdle’s face bathed in the soft glow of his iPad at 1 a.m. Me screaming, “COME TO BED!!!”
Widdle napping. Widdle napping. Widdle napping.
Me opening cans for dinner. Me medicating the dog. Me shopping for running shoes and wallpaper. And Mace, to use on any nut who looks into my house. Or, as we used to call ‘em, peeping Toms.
Julie R. Smith, who is horrified by uncurtained picture windows, can be reached at email@example.com.