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.”
Halaban has always been innately curious about how people interact with one another, and how a stranger becomes a friend, especially as a city dweller living among scores of strangers all the time. Her series explores that natural curiosity by tapping into the curiosity of others. Seeking people who live in apartments with an ideal view of their neighbors across the street, Halaban befriended many people who had expressed an interest in getting to know their neighbors across the street. Perhaps they had seen them on occasion at a dinner party or bumped into them regularly on the street. But Halaban also obtained the permission of each person she would be photographing as well. Every subject was a collaborator willing to shrink the gap between “stranger” and “neighbor.” The voyeuristic quality of each photo, and the fact that each is staged and lit, lends itself to a cinematic feel. As the viewer, you are encouraged to stare at a scene unfolding in front of you in real time, the plot in each window different from the one next door.
In 2012 and 2013, Halaban expanded her views to Europe photographing neighbors in windows across Paris in her book “Paris Views” (Aperture, 2014).