Photographer Arne Svenson angers New Yorkers by taking secret snapshots

By Daniel S Levine,

New York art photographer Arne Svenson has sparked anger from residents who feel that he has invaded their privacy with his telephoto lens. In his latest exhibition, titled The Neighbors, Svenson shows off images of his neighbors doing everyday things, but they never gave Svenson their blessing to take the photos.

“I’m upset because a lot of children live in this building,” one resident told Today on Friday. “I have children, young children, in this building.” The resident added, “I'm sure there's a lot we haven't seen. I don’t know what he has on film and I think that's what everybody's big concern is: What else is there and what else is he planning on doing with them?”

The photos show Svenson’s neighbors taking a nap or putting their child to bet. The Associated Press notes that others show a woman on all fours picking something up and a couple in bathrobes.

Svenson’s neighbors live in a luxury apartment with glass walls, but never told him he could take the photos. They are now works of art, with prices for the photos reaching as high as $8,000. They are on display at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea.

“I don't feel it's a violation in a legal sense but in a New York, personal sense there was a line crossed," resident Michelle Sylvester told the AP. “I think there's an understanding that when you live here with glass windows, there will be straying eyes but it feels different with someone who has a camera.”

While Svenson hasn’t commented on the controversy his photos have caused, he wrote in the gallery’s notes, “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.”

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