Gail Albert Halaban’s Voyeuristic Photographs
What’s hiding behind your neighbours’ doors? Would you peer through a lit, open window if you could stay unseen? New York based photographer Gail Albert-Halaban is doing just that in her project “Out My Window.”
Taking pictures of – and through – stranger’s windows to examine slices of everyday life from afar is a thing. In this photo series, Halaban captures life through the windows of New York City’s and Parisian apartments.
By exploring this tension between the inner and the outer in the urban landscape, Halaban examines what is hidden through what some would describe as voyeuristic images.
“The windows are fragile borders between the familiar and the unknown, between the rushing noises of the city and the timeless quiet of private lives,” she writes in her book’s introduction.
Architecture has an essential role in this series as it structures her photographs from one façade to another. Impenetrable membranes between the inside and the outside, windows here unveil the private world.
People frequently compare her work to Edward Hopper’s art and his emphasis on light, shadows, and shape. Interestingly enough, Hopper himself declared in the 1960s: “It’s hard to paint inside and outside at the same time.”
“At first I know it sounds kind of creepy,” Halaban says. “Many people may even think it’s illegal. But I’m a friendly window-watcher,” she told bjp-online.
The images are not as creepy as the concept could imply. They are actually very warm and cosy pictures that diffuse a sense of home, comfort, and pleasure. Somehow, they make you feel safe. And rest assured, all the photographs were taken with the consent of the subjects.
This amusing contrast between Paris’s romantic architecture and that of New York with its straight modernist apartments gave Halaban the idea to extend the project to other cities, such as Los Angeles and Berlin, but also Amsterdam and Utrecht in Holland.
Looking back on this fascinating and addictive project, she said: “At first I had only the vaguest notion of what I was after. But now I have a clear sense of the questions this new work explores; of how, in an urbanising world, strangers live amongst strangers, of the challenges of creating communities, relationships, and areas of privacy in such a place.”
For Halaban, windows embody islands of privacy in an urbanising world. But let’s not forget that in a poem from 1869 called Les Fenêtres (Windows), Charles Baudelaire also tried to make sense of windows, these true architectural objects of fascination, in a few words: “In that pit, in that blackness or brightness, life is being lived, life is suffering, life is dreaming.”
Words: Pauline Schnoebelen
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