Neighborhood Watch

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A while back I posted about Gail Albert Halaban, She shot a series of images under the title ‘Out my window’ which focused on the views from New York apartments of neighboring buildings and their inhabitants.

I titled it ‘Somebody’s watching you’. Perhaps I should have saved the headline for the work of Arne Svenson. The 60-year-old snapper uses a 500mm lens to spy on the glass walled apartments opposite his home in Tribeca. The beautiful modernist images that result have led to a law suit from angry residents claiming an invasion of privacy on the part of Svenson, which the photographer recently won.

Image from The Neighbors by Arne Svenson

In all honesty I think these pictures are more artistic than invasive. Rarely can anyone be identified. Instead people are just part of the composition, which often remind me of a Mondrian painting with their angular lines.

Each image hints at a life behind the wall rather than attempting to reveal the nature of the tenant’s lives

In ‘Rear Window ‘Alfred Hitchcock’s protagonist uses his camera to spy on neighbors and build a story of their lives from what is uncovered.

In Svenson’s work that is not possible and even, you could argue, never intended.

People in his world remain largely unknowable, almost mysterious. That’s what makes accusations of voyeurism slightly absurd.

Instead Svenson’s work aims to imbue the mundane nature of everyday life with a subtle beauty and introduce it to a world that is often blind to it.

Arne Svenson

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Image from The Neighbors by Arne Svenson

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