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. The series Out My Window is 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.
The future lies behind us; Gail Albert Halaban’s “Out My Window” project is as conceptual as contemporary arts projects are (alas) expected to be, but its modus operandi takes up practices from the early days of photography. In the 19th century, Julia Margaret Cameron, Henry Peach Robinson, Oscar Gustave Rejlander and other photographers set up elaborate tableaux vivants as their subjects. Ms. Halaban (b. 1970) also stage-manages tableaux vivants; she arranges her subjects in the windows of one building so they can be photographed from the window of a building across the way. She has been doing this for over a decade and on several continents, publishing and exhibiting the pictures from individual cities, but the George Eastman Museum show is the first time her work from multiple cities can be seen together and compared.
A new exhibit opening at the Eastman Museum may change the way you look at your neighbors.
Gail Albert Halaban had only been living in New York City for a short time when something weird happened. It was her daughter's first birthday, and they received a package in the mail from her neighbors in the next building over.
Turns out I’m not alone in my curiosity about my neighbors’ tastes in window coverings. New York-based photographer Gail Albert Halaban has spent 13 years photographing people’s relationships with those they can see from their windows–and actually helping them meet each other. For her sprawling, multi-city photo series Out My Window, Halaban helps a person meet the folks who live across from them, and then stages a photograph of those people with their permission. She sets up lighting in their apartment, and then photographs them from across the way, capturing their lives through the window.
Gail Albert Halaban’s Out My Window is both a penetrating exploration of modern community and a group of moving and beautiful photographs. The project started when she moved to New York from Los Angeles. In an effort to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, she began to use her art as a way of connecting with her neighbors. She starts by explaining her work to potential participants and asking for their involvement. If they agree, Albert Halaban facilitates communication among the neighbors and arranges to photograph one from the window of the other. In this way, Albert Halaban employs photography as a form of social engagement. For despite platitudes about modern technology making the world a smaller place, this same virtual environment can also result in feelings of isolation and extreme self-absorption. By connecting strangers who live across the street from each other, Albert Halaban’s expertly composed, beautifully rendered, large-scale photographs encourage viewers to take a fresh look at the people they see every day.
The idea behind this long and intense project, entitled Out of My Window, occured to this New York photographer many years ago, during one of those intimate moments mothers experience while nursing as she looked out the window of her apartment one night.
Peering over the edge of an ornate building lining the Avenida de Mayo, Gail Albert Halaban trains her lens on the window of the opposite building. Below her, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares pulses with commuters in motion, cars honk in the late afternoon swell, yet with the orange haze of dusk setting in behind her, the photographer snaps her subject with silent conviction.
The inspiration for Gail Albert Halaban’s international Rear Window–esque photography series is, like the Hitchcock film, a bit creepy.
In 2007, Albert Halaban, her husband, and their newborn daughter moved from Los Angeles to a loft-style apartment in Manhattan. On her daughter’s first birthday, balloons were sent to the apartment from the florist across the street. There was a note saying how great it had been watching their daughter grow up. The family had never met the florist.
Many a city dweller is familiar with the habit of stealing a peek (or full-on stare) across the street into your neighbor’s window. Living in densely populated cities where apartments are stacked in front of one another like dominoes makes it an especially easy hobby. Several years ago, photographer Gail Albert-Halaban also found herself staring out at the people milling about in the apartment and storefront windows in her New York neighborhood and soon had the idea to explore this fascination with watching other people’s lives, turning it into an opportunity to confront the feeling of isolation in a large city in her ongoing series “Out My Window.”
Une femme qui enfile un corsage, un couple qui se dispute… En 2012, Gail Albert Halaban avait observé, tout spécialement pour “M Le magazine du Monde”, la vie intime des Parisiens, d'une fenêtre à l’autre. De ce travail, la photographe américaine a tiré une série, “Vis-à-vis”, aujourd'hui exposée à la Houk Gallery, à New York.
Pointing to the large panes that line the street-side wall of her Chelsea home and studio, the photographer Gail Albert Halaban explains the provenance of her celebrated “Out My Window” series. “When my daughter was little, I used to feed her late at night while looking out, and on her first birthday, the shop across the street sent me balloons and flowers, but I’d never met them. They’d seen us the entire year and they noticed that people were over and having cake, so it must be a birthday party. It totally inspired the project.”
Gail Albert Halaban was first inspired to train her artistic gaze through others’ windows during a period of personal tragedy. While her five-year-old son was in the hospital for serious heart surgery, the photographer contemplated the nature of modern care, which allowed doctors to glimpse her son’s medical realities through electronic devices.
“I realized all the technology in a hospital is remote. The doctors were monitoring my son’s heart from a different floor. They could look inside his body without being near him. I realized I could look at the world in the same way,” she told the British Journal of Photography.
As this year’s edition shows, the Paris Photo fair is displaying an evermore panoramic view of the photography art market.
Since the world’s largest photography fair moved to the glass-domed Grand Palais in 2011, Paris Photo has shifted from what was once seen as a pure photography event to a fair that attracts more well-known contemporary art galleries and shows works that aren’t always defined as simply photography.
How do you make friends in a big city? Despite brushing shoulders with hundreds of strangers every day, it’s easy to feel like a ship at sea. Anonymity can be comfortable, though, which is why — for many of us at least — the desire to connect rarely propels us beyond a voyeuristic curiosity about the neighbors. The lit, open window quickly becomes a lozenge for loneliness.
This suspended state of communion is something we can all identify with. It simmers through the paintings of Edward Hopper, films like Rear Window and Amelie, and the writings of people like Charles Baudelaire and Paula Fox. More recently, photographer Gail Albert Halaban has mined it to great effect in her series VIS-à-VIS, Paris, which features cinematic scenes of domestic life frozen within the city’s bright window frames.
New York-based photographer Gail Albert Halaban first began peering into people's windows many years ago, and her fascination with the public versus the private in urban life inspired a voyeuristic photo project and then a book, Out My Window, in fall 2012. It caught the eye of Cathy Remy, photo editor for Le Monde's M magazine, who invited Halaban to take her show on the road to Paris a few weeks later. The initial process went the same in Europe as it did in New York, with a few exceptions: Remy and Halaban found participants through Facebook, friends of friends, and word of mouth, and all gave permission in advance, though reactions toward the nature of the shoot were a bit polarizing.
Many of the houses Hopper painted when he summered in Gloucester in the 1920s are still here. Photographer Gail Albert Halaban has revisited them, photographing them from the same perspective from which Hopper painted them. “Hopper Redux, Photo-graphs by Gail Albert Halaban,” now up at the Cape Ann Museum, looks at these homes, their inhabitants, and their history, through a contemporary lens — although one clearly shaped by Hopper.
This exhibit is not, by any means, an Edward Hopper show. There is one drawing by Hopper on view, from the museum’s collection. Otherwise, it’s all Halaban’s photographs, which have their own poetry: startling clarity, luminous, whiskey-rich tones, and a certain melancholy that adds gravity to the visual bravura.
Photographer Gail Albert Halaban spent her childhood summers in Gloucester, Mass., a small seaside town where her father was born. "I never thought it was that interesting of a place," she says. "The beach was beautiful, but I was interested in getting to know it better."
So she was somewhat surprised to learn that Edward Hopper, the beloved American realist painter, had also spent his summers there decades earlier; for whatever reason, Halaban says, people in town rarely talked about it when she was growing up. Still more curious was that although Gloucester is a town of picturesque coastal scenes, Hopper mostly painted houses.
French magazine En Direct de New York speaks highly of Gail Albert Halaban's "Hopper Redux".
"...Thanks to a dramatic lighting and meticulous placement of accessories and people put in these houses stage act as full-fledged characters, moving on the passage of time. The formal composition of each image - rigorous, highly structured and deliberate - and isolated homes recall the melancholy paintings."
The life of a city is revealed through its windows. All human life is there, and a poetic slice of it has been captured by Gail Albert Halaban's ever-observant camera. Her photos in Out Of My Window (powerHouse Books, $50) are revelatory and yet somehow melancholy as the figures appear silent, and often alone.
In a week where the lights went off in skyscrapers all over Manhattan, and people either left or sat, candlelit, in their apartments, these images have an increased poignancy.
Gail Albert Halaban has identified 16 houses in Gloucester, Massachusetts, that were painted by Edward Hopper over several summers in the 1920s and she reckons there are a few more that have, as yet, escaped her notice. Over the past three years, Albert Halaban, a fine art photographer whose work has appeared in the New York Times and Time magazine, has been tracking down the Hopper houses in Gloucester, a picturesque city on the Atlantic coast, and photographing them from the same vantage points that the great American artist used to paint them from nearly a century ago.
Albert Halaban was not trying to imitate Hopper's watercolours, nor was she the first to discover the houses – the subject of The Mansard Roof (1923), a large, elegant residence in the city's Rocky Neck area, has had homage paid to it by Hopper enthusiasts for decades. Her interest has more personal motivations – her father grew up in Gloucester and she's been spending summers there since childhood, so was intrigued to see how another artist had responded to the city. "It's given me a fresh set of eyes on something I know very well."
Gail Albert Halaban began looking into other people’s windows six years ago, soon after moving to New York. She was living across the street from a 24-hour flower shop, waking up at all hours with a newborn baby, and the shop was the most reliable show in town. Then, when the store changed owners and hours, she said, she needed something else to watch.
“I really wanted to see the whole city, and the only way to do that was from other people’s apartments,” she said.
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.’’