When photographer Arne Svenson’s friend, a longtime birdwatcher, passed away away recently, the Tribeca-based artist inherited his birding lens, but instead of looking for airborne wildlife he turned it on his neighbors in a glass-walled condo building across the street from his studio. “The Neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs,” Svenson explains on his website. “I am not unlike the birder, quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or the movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within.”
The resulting exhibition, “The Neighbors,” opens on May 9 at Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea. “For my subjects there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high,” Svenson writes of the project. “As the Neighbors move into and out of their prosceniums, divergent narratives are created in the segmented quadrants. Day and night, obstructed only by reflections, the patina of dust on glass and the occasional pulled curtain I am at the window, waiting for those curtains to part again and for the tableaus to materialize, for the performance to begin.”
Appropriately, the images evoke a kind of “Rear Window” for the 21st century, with half-glimpsed figures going about their mundane but often-inscrutable business. We just hope none of Svenson’s neighbors unknowingly wander into the exhibition only to find themselves featured in it.
Arne Svenson’s “The Neighbors” is on view at Julie Saul Gallery May 9-June 29.
— Benjamin Sutton
(Images courtesy the artist, Julie Saul Gallery.)