May 21, 2013

"But maybe he should have asked before the gallery opens. Everybody’s talking about it."

Well, if "everybody's talking about it," then the artist made a great decision.
[T]he 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.
Key word: luxury.

A middle-class value — privacy — is challenged. But it's built into the scheme that only the rich have had their privacy invaded. The artist — Arne Svenson — gets his publicity in the major media. And to top it all off:
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.
Easiest art project ever.
“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.”

39 comments:

Matthew Sablan said...

I don't get art sometimes.

edutcher said...

Interesting the WaPo shows a guy in blue jeans thoughtfully perusing a woman's behind.

Peter said...

Growing up in a Manhattan hi-rise, as teenagers we saw quite a few "performances" in the adjacent building.

We figured if people wanted privacy then they'd pull the shades; if not...

Mitchell the Bat said...

I think in the latest James Bond movie (Skyfall?) some guy is getting a private viewing of some super-expensive painting. His back is to a glass wall

A sniper picks him off from across the way. Another glass wall.

Lots of neon.

James Bond.

Hand-to-hand combat.

A cliff-hanging ride on a great glass elevator.

Willy Wonka.

rhhardin said...

I bet it's illegal. You can't use extraordinary means (telephoto lens) to capture what would not be visible ordinarily.

ricpic said...

The "artist" is a creep.

MadisonMan said...

Rich people problems.

Henry said...

The headline writer gets the Hitchcock reference, but there's also a Brian DePalma possibility: Body Double.

Also: Stakeout. Richard Dreyfuss. Emilio Estevez.

This is going downhill fast.

Matthew Sablan said...

I thought it was a Hitchcock reference with a pun on the photo being displayed.

bpalt said...

funny, when I was young it was called peeping tom. now it's art...... weird.

damikesc said...

Not sure how the subjects aren't entitled to a lot of the proceeds, since he certainly does not have their permission to use their likeness for commercial benefit.

Matthew Sablan said...

The argument he'll make is that they are unidenfitiable, so, he is not using their likeness since anyone would have done.

bpalt said...

funny, when I was young it was called peeping tom. now it's art...... weird.

gerry said...

I'm just tickled that it's art and it is pissing off wealthy New Yorkers.

Am I a bad person?

gbarto said...

It's not illegal when an artist does it.

Seeing Red said...

People used to get arrested for this.

Larry J said...

Artists say they suffer for their art. This dickhead should suffer a punch in the nose for being a creep.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Hey, if he can see into their apartments, so can they into his. Though possibly his budget doesn't rate the huge wall o'glass effect, so snooping right back might be more difficult.

Freeman Hunt said...

Jerk.

Should people be required to shut themselves up with shades all drawn to avoid being photographed and displayed?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Matthew Sablan,

The argument he'll make is that they are unidenfitiable, so, he is not using their likeness since anyone would have done.

I don't actually think that quite works. Thanks to the photographer, we know exactly where they live, and we can see interiors of their apartments, their clothing, their physical build, &c. No doubt everyone living in the building, at least, can identify everyone in the photographs, as likely can their friends, co-workers, employers ...

Agreeing with just about everyone here that this is deeply creepy. Then again, if you must live in a "luxury" glass house ...

rhhardin, I doubt the telephoto lens makes any legal difference. It made it possible to take the photographs, but I bet everything he photographed was clearly visible to the naked eye from his apartment.

Matthew Sablan said...

Yeah, I don't know if it is a -good- argument, but it is the one he'd have to make. That or "FOR ZE ART!"

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Freeman Hunt,

Should people be required to shut themselves up with shades all drawn to avoid being photographed and displayed?

Well, actually, every time you venture out in public, it's perfectly legal for anyone to "photograph and display" you. There's an "expectation of privacy" in the home, yes, but all the same I don't sit naked at this computer in my home office, whose window opens on my next-door neighbor's backyard.

sydney said...

If you live in a glass house, you ought to hang curtains.

MisterBuddwing said...

Now, if this guy were a painter, and he created paintings inspired by or based on what he saw out his window, would there be any problem?

It's the fact that it's photography - actual images - that's the point of contention, is it not?

Freeman Hunt said...

There's an "expectation of privacy" in the home, yes, but all the same I don't sit naked at this computer in my home office, whose window opens on my next-door neighbor's backyard.

Or course. But there's no indication that these people did that. It appears that they were all doing normal, banal, windows open things. I don't think people should be required to draw all the shades just to avoid having their portraits taken.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I just hope the photographer used one of those lens filters that keeps the camera from stealing people's souls.

elkh1 said...

Want privacy? Close the drapes.

They are exhibitionists, want to exploit their 5 seconds of fame as photo subjects.

elkh1 said...

bpalt said...
funny, when I was young it was called peeping tom. now it's art...... weird.

Peeping Tom peeped thru cracks and crannies of shaded windows, the "artist" took pictures of things in plain view.

damikesc said...
Not sure how the subjects aren't entitled to a lot of the proceeds

They are part of the street scene, life in the City, cityscape?

Methadras said...

Mitchell the Bat said...

I think in the latest James Bond movie (Skyfall?) some guy is getting a private viewing of some super-expensive painting. His back is to a glass wall

A sniper picks him off from across the way. Another glass wall.

Lots of neon.

James Bond.

Hand-to-hand combat.

A cliff-hanging ride on a great glass elevator.

Willy Wonka.


When I saw that in the theater I laughed. I know it was inappropriate, so my wife leans over to me and says, "What the hell are you laughing at?" and lean into her ear and say, "I was half expecting Willy Wonka to pop out and talk about his Great Glass Elevator going up ways and side ways and back ways and all other ways he hasn't tried..." she just shook her head and said, "Damned nerds..."

Methadras said...

Frankly, if I was photographed in the way and presented as part of an art exhibit without my knowledge or consent, I'd find the artist and show him my baseball bat art.

Astro said...

The old saying applies:
It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

wyo sis said...

"Peeping Tom peeped thru cracks and crannies of shaded windows, the "artist" took pictures of things in plain view."

No, he said he made sure he couldn't be seen by backing far enough away from the windows to shoot from the shadows.

If he could be seen doing it the people in their apartments could have called the police and made him stop it.

It's just plain creepy, besides being boring and banal. Art has taken a beating if what this guy does is called art.

wyo sis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wyo sis said...

Insisting people close their drapes is like blaming a shop because they display their wares out in the open where shoplifters can easily take them.
Yes, if the shop is smart they'll make it harder for the shoplifter, but the shoplifter is still a criminal.

Sorin said...

Let this be a lesson to us all. If you live in a glass highrise,go for the penthouse.

Richard Dolan said...

"Key word: luxury."

You can't be serious. The key word, if you have to pick one, is the photog's description of the subjects as "neighbors." The objection is not of the "we're entitled -- don't you know who we are?" sort, but the "don't you have any decency" sort. Whether either objection has any bite turns on your view of neighborliness, which in all events is a reciprocal relationship. That's also why the response about pulling the shades if you want privacy has some real power here. Just as locks are there to help honest people stay honest, shades are there to help modest people stay modest.

wildswan said...

"Well, actually, every time you venture out in public, it's perfectly legal for anyone to "photograph and display" you."

That's not quite true according to photography magazines about shooting street life. You can't show their faces without their permission and children can't give permission. But, as someone said above, this guy showed no faces but the people could be identified - and these people were not in public spaces but they did know they hadn't pulled the shades. It seems from the pictures - I wish there were more - that he was trying to show people "off-stage" - how they sit and stand when they think they are alone. It is extremely difficult to catch these moments but saying he overcame a technical difficulty is a far cry from saying he got anything worth seeing.

damikesc said...

They are part of the street scene, life in the City, cityscape?

I hope it sells for a lot of money.

The lawsuits from the photographed would tie this peeping tom in courts for years.

It'd be incredibly amusing.

yashu said...

That's not quite true according to photography magazines about shooting street life. You can't show their faces without their permission and children can't give permission.

This is incorrect. In the USA, photographing people (including children) in public spaces-- where there is no "expectation of privacy"-- is perfectly legal.

Of course, there are nuances in practice. And what's legal and what's ethical are distinct things, of course.

Here's a blog post on the topic.

I remember the Nussenzweig v. DiCorcia case.

You need releases from people for "commercial uses" of their image-- e.g. ads/ commercials. But publishing images as art, documentary, editorial photography-- or just posting on the internet, your blog or flickr or whatever-- is perfectly legal.

In other countries, the law is different. Here's a recent NYT article on the issue of photography vs. privacy in France.