Secret Photos Of Residents Subject Of Art Exhibition

    May 17, 2013
    Amanda Crum

An L.A. artist is on the receiving end of some backlash this week after his exhibition opened in New York, because the subjects are none too pleased about the way they turned out. Mostly because they weren’t aware they were being photographed.

Arne Svenson took the pictures with a telephoto lens through his loft window, aiming the camera into the apartments across the way…and therefore, into strangers’ lives. The exhibition, titled “The Neighbors”, is drawing criticism and outright outrage this week as the subjects have realized just how much Svenson saw.

“This is about kids. If he’s waiting there for hours with his camera, who knows what kind of footage he has. I can recognize items from my daughter’s bedroom,” one resident said.

The gallery owner, Julie Saul, is surprised at the anger she’s seen from some of the subjects and says most of the feedback she’s gotten about the pieces is positive. As for Svenson, he never shows the faces of his subjects.

“For my subjects, there is no question of privacy,” he said in the exhibition statement. “They are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high. I am not unlike the birder, quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or a movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within.”

Of course, many artists are controversial in what they do and for some, that is just the point. Last year, Damien Hirst found himself on the receiving end of some backlash of his own after using live butterflies in an exhibit and inadvertently killing 9,000 of them. But some say that filming others without their knowledge is pushing more boundaries than an artist should.

For now, Svenson’s show is on display at the Julie Saul gallery in Chelsea.