Voyeurism Or Art?

Voyeurism Or Art?

There are other people who are less, or not, concerned with the privacy of their neighbours and have used a telephoto lens to capture them without their permission. For instance, there is Michael Wolf who produced his “Window Watching” series by peeping into the apartments of Hong Kong residents. Arne Svenson wassued by his neighbours in New York after they recognised their children in “The Neighbors” exhibition at a nearby gallery (he won the court case under his First Amendment rights).

Where does one draw the line between voyeurism and art?

I admire Svenson’s work in “The Neighbours” for how he has made rather banal activities into something quite beautiful and poetic. In these quiet observations of everyday life, the faces of the individuals are often either obstructed or out of view and thus do not outrightly identify them.

Some of Svenson’s photos remind me of paintings by Johannes Vermeer and Edward Hopper. For the fun of it, I’ve created the diptychs below, purposely matching similar images.


Edward Hopper night windows - Arne Svenson


The first features Edward Hoppers’ “Night Windows” and the second, “The Lacemaker” by Vermeer.


Vermeer lacemaker - Arne Svenson scissors

How would you feel if you were in the shoes of these neighbours? If someone secretly photographes you in your home in the name of art, would you feel violated?


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