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Should you get caught snooping around with a camera, say you are doing it for art

should you get caught snooping around with a camera call on your rights as an artist arne svenson neighbors julie saul galler
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What’s creepier than a Peeping Tom? If you’re in the state of New York, it’s the fact that a stranger from afar can take photographs of someone while he/she is at home, and it’s perfectly legal. OK, before you start zooming in on your neighbors with that telephoto lens, it’s actually not as simple as that. Here’s the story.

Gothamist (via The Daily News) reported that a Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled in favor of Arne Svenson, an artist who created a series of photographs of residents in a luxury apartment building, called “The Neighbors,” which he took from his home across the street. Two of the residents, Martha and Matthew Foster, sued Svenson when they discovered the artwork of them and their family was exhibited in a gallery, and took him to court to take possession of the photos and also bar Svenson from showing the photos in the future. The Fosters claim that Svenson’s work “shocks the conscience and is so out of keeping with the standards of morality in the community,” even though the photos don’t reveal any faces.

But Judge Eileen Rakower said the Fosters’ argument was not convincing enough because Svenson was making art. “Art is considered free speech and is therefore protected by the First Amendment. While it makes the [Fosters] cringe to think that their private lives and images of their small children can find their way into the public forum of an art exhibition, there is no redress under the current laws of the state of New York.”

So, there you have it. If you decide to be “that guy” and take “rear window” photos of your neighbors without their consent, just make sure you call it art. But, unless you’re a legit artist, good luck proving that to the cops.

(Image via Arne Svenson/Julie Saul Gallery)

Richard Grech
As a father of young triplets, Richard Grech has his hands full. But, as a photography enthusiast and one of Digital Trends'…
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