Neighbors Sue Photographer in “Rear Window” Case

Saturday, May 25, 2013
Neighbors #7 by Arne Svenson (photo: Julie Saul Gallery}

Residents of an apartment building in New York City are suing a photographer whose latest exhibition includes images taken of the plaintiffs inside their homes.


In what’s being called the “Rear Window” case, Arne Svenson used a telephoto camera to photograph his neighbors from his studio across the way, snapping pictures of the Foster family as they went about their daily lives.


Svenson admits he never informed the Fosters about what he was doing. Martha and Matthew Foster, who sued Svenson in New York County Court on behalf of themselves and their children, say were “deeply distressed” to learn their “children's faces were clearly recognizable” in the photographs, which are now on display at the Julie Saul Gallery.


The plaintiffs also claim the images could compromise “their safety and security.” Svenson insists he took care not to reveal the identities of his neighbors.


“The people I photographed were not aware at the time. That said, I have been committed to protecting their privacy—and stringent about not revealing their identities,” he told Slate. “I was not photographing them as specific, identifiable personages, but more as representations of humankind, of us. And specifically the ‘us’ who live in New York. Therefore, I only reveal the turn of the head, the back against a window, the legs under a table.”


The case has reminded some of the classic 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window, in which a photographer (played by Jimmy Stewart), confined to a wheelchair while he recovers from an injury, spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Parents Blast Photographer for Telephoto Shots (by Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service)

Watching the Neighbors, New York City–Style (by David Rosenberg, Slate)

The Neighbors (Julie Saul Gallery)

Rear Window (IMDb)


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