Two years ago I reported that residents of a luxury Tribeca building were furious about an art gallery’s exhibition of photos taken through their windows from an apartment across the street. A lawsuit shortly followed, of course, and this week a panel of judges made their decision:
Want privacy? Buy shades. That was the message sent by a panel of Appellate Division judges Thursday when they tossed a lawsuit by a Tribeca family who said a photographer invaded their privacy by secretly taking their pictures for a year and then putting them in an exhibit. Lensman Arne Svenson acknowledged that he snapped the unguarded shots of Martha and Matthew Foster and their young children through the floor to ceiling windows of their loft, which is across the street from his apartment. The judges said Svenson’s protracted lurking in the shadows of his darkened apartment was “disturbing” but neither a violation of criminal stalking laws nor a violation of the family’s civil rights as state law is now written because Svenson’s photos were works of art. In an interview with photography blog PetaPixel, Svenson said he “shot for the tiny nuances of gesture and posture that define who we are, collectively. The subjects are to be seen as representations of humankind, not identifiable as the actual people photographed.”
The judges declared that their hands were tied by the lack of an applicable law and suggested that the family take their privacy concerns to the state legislature. The photographer’s lawyer expressed concern over that advice, saying that expectations of privacy in a “dense urban environment” are not absolute.