‘Peeping’ Photographer Wins Case Against Neighbors

Curators’ Corner

‘Peeping’ Photographer Wins Case Against Neighbors

Remember Arne Svenson, the photographer who really, really upset his NYC neighbors awhile back?

In case you don’t, Svenson secretly photographed his Tribeca neighbors through their windows from his apartment across the street. When the series – simply titled The Neighbors – premiered in a Chelsea gallery in May, residents of the Zinc Building were shocked and furious to see themselves on display out of nowhere.

Martha and Matthew Foster, who were photographed along with their children, filed a lawsuit against Svenson for violating their rights to privacy. They sought possession of Svenson’s photos of them, and also wanted to shut down his exhibition and prohibit future public viewing.

Well, the verdict is in and…

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower ruled in favor of Arne Svenson’s artistic rights over the Fosters’ rights to privacy in their home, essentially letting Svenson off the hook (while probably leaving the Fosters extremely frustrated).

Judge Rakower ruled that Svenson’s images did not violate New York State civil rights laws and were ultimately protected by the First Amendment, art being considered free speech.

“An artist may create and sell a work of art that resembles an individual without his or her written consent,” the judge wrote in her decision.

Judge Rakower also ruled that Svenson was not in the wrong for selling his images at the exhibition and for promotional purposes – somewhat surprising considering State law prohibits the use of a person’s image for commercial purposes without their consent.

“The value of artistic expression outweighs any sale that stems from the published photos,” she wrote.

So what do you think? Do you agree with the judge’s ruling? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.

Photo by Arne Svenson

Photo by Arne Svenson

Arne Svenson at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea