Photos secretly taken of family through window are art, not invasion of privacy: court



In other news the PRISM exhibition opens in June.


He took pictures of people in their homes through their windows and exhibited them without their knowledge or consent and he is pissed about his artistic rights being infringed on, what a fucking dick.


Someone should do it to him and call it art. What a douchebag.


What is the judge’s home address?


Breaking news, glass is transparent.


In an interview with Petapixel, Svenson said he was surprised that his photos of the family were controversial…

…thus bringing new meaning to “disingenuous.”


Would the privacy issue be perceived differently if the family lived on the 1st floor of the building with the same windows (ignoring the fact that you wouldn’t have windows like that on the first floor…)?

Would it make the artist any less of a dick?


And here’s the precedent:


If I was a member of that family I’d have a picture take of me punching his nose and name that piece of art as payback number one.


But the judges didn’t rule on his dick-ness. They ruled on the legality of photographing people without their knowledge, through a plainly visible unobscured window. As troubling as it may be, I’m with the judges here. If I can see it from a public space, or my own private space, who’s to tell me I can’t take a photo of it? As to whether or not it’s a dick move, or whether the gallery should show it, that’s another issue, but in terms of basic legality, I think it is far more problematic to start telling people what plainly visible things aren’t allowed to be recorded.


What part of “Reasonable expectation of privacy” does the Judge not understand? I’m quite sure the ruling would be different if it were the his family on display.

IMO that judge has a case of cranial rectitus.

What reasonable expectation of privacy do you have in front of an un-tinted, un-obscured, un-opaque, un-curtained, un-shuttered glass window?



What reasonable expectation of not being surrounded by total assholes do you have?

A pretty reasonable expectation, unless you live near Arne Svenson.


Oh, but it was just fine when Hitchcock did it?

He did get lucky when that guy murdered his wife, though. Would have made for an awfully boring piece otherwise.


Would you still side with the judge if someone was taking pictures of your half-naked daughter and showing them around? As happened in this case.

1 Like

@CarlMud: What floor you’re on influences the “reasonable expectation of privacy” you might have. So yes, I would hope the perception to be different depending on what floor they live. In most cultures, having that kind of windows on the ground floor means “feel free to look in”, while having it on a higher floor means just “we want to be able to look out”.

Sounds like that mostly settles it for America, unless you change the law (I still don’t get all that precedent stuff… over here in Europe, we tend to have laws for that kind of stuff, it feels much more “democratic”).

In Austrian law, for example, being the main subject of a photo gives you some rights in a photo. These rights include prohibiting public exhibition of the photo, unless you are to be considered a “person of public interest”.

The law tells you. In America, apparently, the law tells you it’s OK to take a photo if someone lives their “private” life where you happen to be able to see it.

Copyright law already tells you that plainly visible things aren’t allowed to be recorded. In terms of “basic legality”, we lose nothing if we make a law that protects people instead of copyright holders for a change.

The entirely reasonable expectation that what I do will be seen by my neighbors and their guests. And the entirely reasonable expectation that what I do will not be seen by visitors of an art gallery.


I’m working on reading the interview with Svenson now, and have viewed more of the pictures.

The shot of the kneeling woman that accompanies this article, and leads of the interview, is somewhat salacious – it’s not revealing, but it is directing our gaze onto her posterior, making us complicit in… something.

(via nydailynews)

I’m not quite sure what. Focusing on that image is an editorial decision (unless Svenson has picked it out as an examplar). While toying with the idea of toying with the subject and objectifying her, the subject in these photos retain their anonymity. To me, at least, the anonymity is an integral part that teases or taunts us – we want to know more; which puts us back in complicity mode again. The photos are well “staged” as it were – or cropped, selected, etc. They’re very interesting in their composition. The gaze, our gaze, is also well-staged.

Without knowing that the subject were unwitting, they’re good photographs. With that knowledge, the series extends itself in some direction. It is definitely problematic – but everybody is anonymous. No person has had their privacy violated, because there is no person in these shots – only fragments of bodies, and compositions.

A shot like this

(NB: I previously inserted the staring-at-butts photo in this place by accident)

reminds me of nothing so much as (the loneliness of an urban) Edward Hopper:

And look, we’re back where we started: gazing at butts.

As far as I know, Hopper worked with models (for example, he and his wife posed for the figures in Nighthawks [somewhow]), not discreetly capturing un-knowing strangers. But if a painter were to slowly capture strangers – is that different from what Svenson did?


Not strictly true. If it’s in the public space, I can record copyrighted things as long as simple reproductions of it isn’t the sole intent. Take a picture of Times Square and you’ll be recording TONS of copyrighted works. Zoom in on a particular logo, with nothing else, and you might be in trouble (but even then, it can depend on context–for example, done in some way that is defensible as part of an artistic project). And it gets murky too, in regards to simply photographing, vs displaying, vs reproducing.


As the resolution of sensors, quality of optics, and availability of automated-scanning hardware (pan-tilt platforms) and software for acquisition and assembly of gigapixel-sized photos, being unwittingly captured in such photos will be more and more common. Availability of aerial platforms further increases the variability of angles and distances available for image acquisition.

Check out the gigapixel panorama photos available on the Net. In many you will find weird things, lurking in the sea of pixels.

And then there is the other problematics, the signals we and our gadgets emit that are not directly visible - the wifi/bluetooth/cellphone signals, the unintentional EMI radiation… A lot of art projects can be made from this.