To New Yorkers, Edward Hopper is likely to evoke visions of moody nighttime urban scenes. But the painter created some of his most famous work in the bright seaside town of Gloucester, Mass., on Cape Ann, where he spent time in the 1920s. The photographer Gail Albert Halaban has been locating the original houses in Hopper’s paintings there and taking pictures of them as they look today. Greta Bagshaw, whose husband’s family has owned the ‘‘Mansard Roof ’’ since 1962, is accustomed to the attention. ‘‘Not infrequently we’ve seen people who set up easels in our backyard to paint it,’’ Bagshaw says. ‘‘We know it’s time to put up the awnings each year when we’re eating on the porch and we turn around and see a big tour group watching us eat dinner.’’
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Gail Albert Halaban, who lives and works in New York, began photographing when she was 6, when she made a camera for her first grade science fair. She holds an MFA from Yale University.
Her art explores the tension between public and private life, what is seen by all, and what is hidden. Her first monograph, Out My Window, will be published in Fall 2012 by powerHouse Books. In this series, a collection of images taken through and into windows in New York City, she acknowledges unspoken voyeurism and exhibitionism, tells us to admit we all do it, and then pushes us to confront the hope, isolation and other emotions that lie behind the gaze.
The pictures seem intrusive, but are nearly all posed. The residents are collaborators and their apartments are lit specifically to make these pictures, which explore a defining urban experience: becoming secretly familiar with the neighbors’ most intimate moments.
In the end, the process of producing this series of images is a kind of performance that serves as a remedy for the symptoms that they portray: by ringing on doorbells, Albert Halaban helps bring anonymous neighbors into each others’ lives. The set-up of the camera and the staging of the resultant photograph become an occasion for new friendships.