Photographer Arne Svenson’s painterly portraits of his neighbours are a voyeuristic insight into the day-to-day movements of strangers behind apartment windows. “The project began when I inherited a telephoto bird-watching lens and started photographing the quotidian activity of my neighbours in the glass-walled apartment across the street from my Manhattan studio,” says Arne. “The subjects I photographed were unaware at the time but I was stringent about not revealing their identities. I was not photographing these people as specific, identifiable personages, but more as representations of human kind.” The result is no shots of full faces in the series, but rather a beautiful collection of body parts including bent knees under tables, shoulders leant against windows and silhouetted fingers reaching out towards something out of shot.
“I was intrigued not only by the implied narrative within the transparent frames but by the aesthetic and conceptual interplay between the softness of the figures, obscured through dirty windows and the hard-edged panes of glass and metal supports,” explains Arne. This delicate aesthetic sets The Neighbors apart and elevates the random windows from panes of glass into large-scale picture frames.
“My overall intent was always to capture the moments that define our humanness at the most basic level and I felt the only true way to do this was if the subject was unaware of my camera’s presence,” says Arne. “If I had staged these domestic scenes as a collaborative project with the subjects I don’t think I ever would have been able to capture the visual serendipity and unexpected nuances of expressive non-movement.”