We talk about street photography, street portraiture, and intentions often on this site, but I feel that the idea of the voyeur is something we genuinely need to bring up again. To get right to the meat of the problem, I want to tackle the issue of photographing children—an issue often brought up. But there is a lot of the same and the images of many people look the same. As much as Bruce Gilden talks about his characters and is met with almost equal levels of hate, many of the images that he shoots show something particularly special about the person in the frame.
Tate Modern in display of voyeurism for photography curator's debut
The Voyeur in Photography as it Relates to the Photographer's Intentions
A s Actaeon was the first to discover, snooping is a serious offence. In Ovid's version of the legend, Diana is bathing in a spring of clear water with her nymphs when Actaeon comes upon her at the end of a day's hunting. He doesn't intend to pry, but he can't help staring, and she's outraged by the intrusion on her privacy. The man who spied on Lady Godiva, and who gave the term Peeping Tom to the language, was punished by being struck blind. As for the Elders who gawped at Susanna bathing, then tried to blackmail her, they were put to death.
It promises to be the most intrusive art exhibition Tate Modern has ever held: 13 rooms of photographs and video footage of things we really should not be seeing — ranging from sex and death to outrageous invasions of privacy. Somewhat presciently, given the coalition government's promise of legislation to regulate the use of CCTV, the scariness and scale of surveillance features heavily in Voyeurism, which opens to the public on Friday. The exhibition suggests that, as a society, we have always been voyeurs — it is just that technology now makes it so much easier.
The neighbors, who were unaware they were being photographed, are somewhat obscured — bending over, back to the window, head turned, behind a curtain — and therefore mostly unidentifiable. But the subjects are recognizable to themselves, and maybe others. One question being asked of the pictures is: are they art or an invasion of privacy? These particular pictures are problematic, even for those, like me, who overwhelmingly side with artists and journalists when it comes to questions of freedom of expression. Does the fact that a photographer can see something give him the right to photograph it?