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Peeping Tom Photographer’s Neighbors Don’t Like
Being Sold as Art


05.16.13 Julia Dawidowicz

Last year, Arne Svenson began secretly photographing his neighbors in their homes, as seen through his 2nd-floor TriBeCa apartment window. Now, the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea is selling prints from “The Neighbors” for thousands of dollars a piece. The project’s unsuspecting muses aren’t too thrilled about Svenson’s success.

Considering the series includes shots of a lady’s butt as she’s bent over cleaning and a young child snuggling with a teddy, we suppose they’re not being all that unreasonable. But the intimacy! The violation! The intrinsic symbolism of windows! It’s art.

Some of the luxury apartment building’s residents don’t buy it, and are considering taking legal action against Svenson. One enraged tenant, Clifford Finn, is calling perv-alert:

A grown man should not be able to photograph kids in their rooms with a telephoto lens. You can argue artistic license all you want, but that’s really the issue here. I’m sorry, but I’m really bothered by this.

When you put it that way, Svenson’s artistic statement sound a little bit creepy.

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. The Neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs. I am not unlike the birder, quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or the movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within.

Mmyesss, birds, pretty little birds…