Privacy Law

Family living in glass home sues photographer who took pictures with zoom lens for art exhibit

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After news that a Manhattan photographer used a telephoto lens to take pictures for an art exhibit of his across-the-street neighbors in an upscale high-rise with floor-to-ceiling windows, at least one family has sued.

Others at the Zinc Building are purchasing window coverings, according to Courthouse News and the New York Observer.

One resident cooperated with the New York Post, which reported that it turned the tables on photographer Arne Svenson and took photos of his home with a telephoto lens from the home of Mariel Kravetz. The one accompanying a Friday article shows a potted plant on a balcony and a wooden mannequin just inside a window.

Kravetz says she recognized herself in two of the photos on display at Svenson’s Chelsea art exhibit.

“What does he have that we haven’t seen? He probably took thousands or more,” Kravetz told the Post. “I have a young daughter. It’s more than me. Does he have any of her? That’s my biggest concern.”

Similar concerns were expressed by Martha and Matthew Foster, who said in a Manhattan Supreme Court suit that they were “deeply distressed” to find that their two young children are identifiable in photos that shows the tots wearing a diaper and a swimsuit.

In addition to potentially “compromising their safety and security,” Svenson’s zoom-lens photography, now that they know about it, is forcing them to keep their window blinds drawn whenever they are home, the couple alleges.

Their suit seeks an injunction to prevent dissemination of the photos, which are reportedly for sale, and compensatory and punitive damages. In addition to asserting a claim against Svenson for intentional infliction of emotional distress, it appears from the Courthouse News article that the family may also be asserting a right to publicity.

Svenson did not immediately respond to a request by Courthouse News for comment, and the news agency, citing an unidentified lawyer specializing in media law, said case decisions in New York allow photographs to be taken from public property but may not permit shooting through windows with a zoom lens.

The Associated Press earlier reported that attorney Norman Siegel indicated that the right of the photographer to artistic expression would have to be balanced against the privacy rights of those depicted. He also suggested that individuals who are not identifiable in Svenson’s photos might have a tough time prevailing in court, as a previous post discusses.

Svenson himself suggested that his across-the-street neighbors in the the Zinc Building essentially agreed to be photographed, because they live in units with floor-to-ceiling windows, USA Today reported earlier.

An article in The New Yorker about the exhibit includes a slide show of some of Svenson’s photos of the residents of the building.

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