Art or Privacy?


SLM
#1
Photographer who secretly snapped neighbours goes to court

By Reuters


A man attends a photo exhibition called 'The Neighbors' by fine art photographer Arne Svenson at Julie Saul Gallery in New York on June 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

Space-starved New Yorkers might know better than to expect privacy in their glass-and-steel residential boxes. Yet, even by Manhattan standards, an exhibit by a photographer who used a zoom lens to secretly photograph his neighbours napping and eating has caused a citywide stir - and two legal actions, so far.
Photographer Arne Svenson says he started the project after inheriting a telephoto lens from a friend. He began taking pictures of the apartments opposite his own Tribeca home in 2012.
Those images are now on show - and for sale at prices of up to $7,500 per photo - at a Chelsea gallery, where they prompted a legal complaint from Martha and Matthew Foster, parents of the young children featured in two of his photographs.
The Fosters said the pictures raised concerns about the safety of their children as well as fears that they “must keep their shades drawn at all hours of the day in order to avoid telephoto photography by a neighbour.”
For the rest of New York, the controversy over the exhibition has triggered a conversation about First Amendment rights and just how much privacy city dwellers can expect.
FIGHTING BACK




In the latest development, Svenson is fighting back. On Wednesday, his attorney filed a motion calling for the New York county court to throw out the Fosters’ complaint. The motion argues that the pictures are not illegal and are protected under an artist’s freedom of expression under First Amendment rights. Svenson is no longer commenting on the controversy, but says in his exhibition notes: “For my subjects, there is no question of privacy. The neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs.”
The photographs themselves are both abstract and specific, capturing mundane but intimate moments of domestic modern life. All are carefully framed to avoid revealing the full faces of their subjects. A woman in a raincoat stands by the window, her face obscured by a twisted gold curtain. A man in T-shirt and jeans dozes on a sofa. An expectant mother is pictured in profile. The lower halves of a couple in bath robes are caught breakfasting, their feet touching under the table. Another woman is crouched near the window, scrubbing the floor or picking something off the ground.
The Fosters’ complaint details the couple’s distress about two photos that feature their children. One image shows Martha Foster holding her two-year-old son, with her four-year-old daughter standing beside her. The girl is in a swim suit; the boy is wearing a diaper. The document alleges that the minors’ faces are “clearly recognizable,” which could endanger their safety by attracting the attention of “undesirable and potentially dangerous people.”
The plaintiffs say they are “frightened and angered” by the “utter disregard for their privacy and the privacy of their children” and the “seclusion and solitude of their homes.” The complaint adds that Svenson’s conduct is “so out of keeping with the standards of morality in the community as to evince an intentional or reckless disregard of its likelihood to cause severe emotional distress to the Fosters.”
Although Svenson removed the pictures from the exhibition when contacted by an attorney, the Fosters still want to remove all remaining pictures from the photographer’s possession, a permanent injunction against further photographic intrusions, plus damages and costs.
Svenson’s legal motion of June 5 asserts that neither his conduct nor photographs violate any New York laws. The document adds that as the images “were taken through windows that are fully exposed to the street, they cannot support a claim for intentional infliction of severe emotional distress.”
With regard to the photos that feature the Fosters, the motion states that the faces of the parents are not revealed, the children are obscured and the subjects are in plain view. “Both photographs capture children at play and the innocence of childhood, nothing more revealing than you might see in a neighborhood park,” the document says. It asserts that Svenson’s images are protected by First Amendment rights and that the “Plaintiffs should not be permitted to use the Court to attempt to restrict artistic expressions that they disagree with.”
Julie Saul, the gallery owner and director, told Reuters that the reaction to the exhibition was a “huge surprise” and a “tempest in a teapot.” “It really never occurred to me that there would any of the controversial issues surrounding the work because historically there have been lots and lots of photographers who have photographed on the street, through windows, there’s a whole history of it,” she said.
Mickey Osterreicher, an attorney and general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, described the case as “very interesting.” “Most people have this sense in New York because everybody lives so close together, because the line sights are such, that you can very easily look into your neighbours’ apartment and they can look into yours, but I think the court may parse this out as looking is one thing and photographing is another,” he told Reuters.
Osterreicher is concerned that a ruling in this case could “create more pushback by people who are looking to create an expectation of privacy even when you’re out in public.” He thinks this could lead to First Amendment protections being “chipped away.” Osterreicher believes that this case has been a negative one for the image of photography and First Amendment rights due to the “bad taste” that has been left with the public. The attorney believes that the case against Svenson may “turn more on the facts of the case than on the actual law.”
While the case remains in the hands of the New York State Justice system, the issues raised by Svenson’s photographs are as ethical as they are legal. Saul said: “If it’s an ethical issue I think it’s about the individual, and the way that Arne has handled this work is incredibly respectful and ethical.”
Clearly, others disagree.



Photographer who secretly snapped neighbours goes to court - World - Canoe.ca


I've got to say, weighing everything, I think I'm going with creepy and a violation of privacy over First Amendment rights in this case.
 
Palindrome
+1
#2
There needs to be a landmark legal decision here.
It's already too late to protect privacy, but not too late to address the question of public exhibition of images without the subject's consent. Photo technology being what it is today, there are so many instances of people's private moments unwittingly made public. Paranoia works both ways: many of the hidden cameras are for "security", while making people feel insecure.

But this instance is clearly non-consensual exploitation for personal gain.
You'd think the art gallery would have known better?
 
Christianna
#3
Here in our town a lady doctor had a house built, but never bothered to put up curtains. A couple of lots away from her a local decided to put up a 3 or 4 story old folks home. The doctor complained bitterly that it was going to be an invasion of her privacy, in a letter to the editor it was suggested that she put curtains up. It still took her a couple of years to put up curtains and drapes. So my advise to anyone wishing privacy is put up curtains or paint your windows black!
 
SLM
+2
#4  Top Rated Post
Quote: Originally Posted by Christianna View Post

Here in our town a lady doctor had a house built, but never bothered to put up curtains. A couple of lots away from her a local decided to put up a 3 or 4 story old folks home. The doctor complained bitterly that it was going to be an invasion of her privacy, in a letter to the editor it was suggested that she put curtains up. It still took her a couple of years to put up curtains and drapes. So my advise to anyone wishing privacy is put up curtains or paint your windows black!

I think there's a big difference between people being able to see into your home when your curtains are drawn, or even because you don't have any curtains, and someone taking photos with a telephoto lens of you and your family inside your home.
 
Palindrome
#5
There are actually four separate issues: seeing, recording, exhibiting and profiting.
Privacy in a city is difficult, but achievable, at a price. One can be totally invisible - alone, sunless, earning one's living, having one's social life and ordering all necessities on the internet.
Living a [relatively] normal life has always meant being seen by other people, perhaps noticed by many. Nowadays, it also means being photographed and filmed often, and without one's knowledge or consent, by acquaintances, by news media, by government agencies, by corporations and by random strangers.
The current question is how these recorded images can, may and should be used.
Do I have a copyright on my own image? Should i be able to control where and in what context it appears? Should anyone else be allowed to own it, show it and sell it?
 
SLM
+1
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by Palindrome View Post

There are actually four separate issues: seeing, recording, exhibiting and profiting.
Privacy in a city is difficult, but achievable, at a price. One can be totally invisible - alone, sunless, earning one's living, having one's social life and ordering all necessities on the internet.
Living a [relatively] normal life has always meant being seen by other people, perhaps noticed by many. Nowadays, it also means being photographed and filmed often, and without one's knowledge or consent, by acquaintances, by news media, by government agencies, by corporations and by random strangers.

Yes and no. There are different levels of privacy. If you are out in a public space, you really have none, or at least very little and it can't be guaranteed. If you're in your home, you're not in a public space. Yes, someone can walk by your ground floor home and potential see inside. But if someone comes and stares/peeps into your windows you're well within your right to report them to the authorities. There is a line that can be crossed.

Same with photography, if you're in a public space, whether you're meant to be the subject of the photograph or not, you have to accept that you can be photographed at any time. But if you're in a private space, do you need to accept the same thing? I don't think so because it's no different than someone peering in your windows and spying on you. At least in my opinion. And this is exactly what this guy did.
 
shadowshiv
+1
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by Palindrome View Post

There are actually four separate issues: seeing, recording, exhibiting and profiting.
Privacy in a city is difficult, but achievable, at a price. One can be totally invisible - alone, sunless, earning one's living, having one's social life and ordering all necessities on the internet.
Living a [relatively] normal life has always meant being seen by other people, perhaps noticed by many. Nowadays, it also means being photographed and filmed often, and without one's knowledge or consent, by acquaintances, by news media, by government agencies, by corporations and by random strangers.
The current question is how these recorded images can, may and should be used.
Do I have a copyright on my own image? Should i be able to control where and in what context it appears? Should anyone else be allowed to own it, show it and sell it?

Judging from the people who have their images blurred or blacked out in special features on DVDs or during documentaries(or newscasts), I think that people cannot be shown in public images without their permission. I think this "artist" should have his pictures removed and he should have to pay some money to the people he photographed without their permission. First Amendment rights should have NO bearing in cases like this. How can this not be considered stalking in a way? A person's right to privacy should be more important than this guy's "free speech".
 
SLM
+1
#8
That's a good point. If this guy, instead of putting up his pictures in a gallery, had them sequestered away in his home, they might be considered evidence of a crime. (Stalking).
 
Cannuck
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by shadowshiv View Post

Judging from the people who have their images blurred or blacked out in special features on DVDs or during documentaries(or newscasts), I think that people cannot be shown in public images without their permission.

Yes they can. They just have "their images blurred or blacked out" so as not to make their identities public. According to the story...

Quote:

The photographs themselves are both abstract and specific, capturing mundane but intimate moments of domestic modern life. All are carefully framed to avoid revealing the full faces of their subjects

Seems fair to me.
 
shadowshiv
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by Cannuck View Post

Yes they can. They just have "their images blurred or blacked out" so as not to make their identities public. According to the story...



Seems fair to me.

Which is why I mentioned that fact in my post. However, the people in the pictures taken by the "artist" do NOT have their images blurred or blacked out. This is invasion of privacy, plain and simple. And if he ends up successful, then ALL his neighbour's should get cameras with telephoto lenses and take pictures of him all the time, doing whatever. I'm sure he would be complaining about invasion of privacy in no time.
 
Cannuck
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by shadowshiv View Post

However, the people in the pictures taken by the "artist" do NOT have their images blurred or blacked out. This is invasion of privacy, plain and simple.

The reason images are blurred or blacked out is to protect identities. According to the quote I provided, the artist protected their identities. He just did it in a different way however the end result was the same.

Quote: Originally Posted by shadowshiv View Post

I'm sure he would be complaining about invasion of privacy in no time.

Or he would just close his blinds.
 
shadowshiv
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by Cannuck View Post

The reason images are blurred or blacked out is to protect identities. According to the quote I provided, the artist protected their identities. He just did it in a different way however the end result was the same.



Or he would just close his blinds.

He shouldn't have to. People shouldn't have to close themselves off to the world (what's wrong with wanting a little sunshine in your house?) to prevent people like him from exploiting them.
 
Cannuck
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by shadowshiv View Post

He shouldn't have to.

That will most likely be determined in a court of law. Personally, If I don't want people seeing what I'm doing in my house, I close the curtains despite the fact that I don't "have" to.
 

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