Brain Pickings

Stolen Moments: Secret Glimpses of Neighbors’ Lives

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What Lower East Side kisses have to do with oil painting and the age of surveillance.

We love the intersection of art and voyeurism — from PostSecret to AnthroPosts to We Feel Fine to The Apology Line. But Yasmine Chatila takes it to new heights in her Stolen Moments series, an indulgent and fascinating glimpse of raw, private human existence amidst the orchestrated public chaos of New York City.

On a quiet winter night, I looked out a window. I could see a building far away, the windows where illuminated, and I could vaguely make out people inside their apartments. When I imagined what they might be doing, my mind fluttered between wild fantasies and mundane clichés. I was curious to compare my expectations to the reality of their lives.

Chatila spent months staking out NYC apartment interiors with her photographic and telescopic equipment, working from well-situated apartments across the street exclusively under the cover of night. The intimate, painting-like, noirish black-and-white results are part Hitchcock, part Shakespeare, part ephemeral postmodern visual poetry.

woman standing on kitchen counter - Upper West Side, Sat 4:03 AM

At times, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of human nature when it was not guarded, not self-conscious and completely uninhibited. This provided me with a stage where it was possible to observe myself in the most secret and vulnerable moments of others.

the kiss - Lower East Side, Sun 11:37 PM

To preserve both the privacy of her unaware subjects and the authenticity of the art, Chatila spent countless hours in post-production, transforming the recognizable into archetypal, often displacing her subjects from their original habitats and transplanting the unedited human moments into another building in an entirely different location.

fat girls in devil window - Soho, Friday 6:36 PM

Chatila is actually a painter by training, which makes this project all the more interesting as she trades the brush, oil paint and canvas for digital tools while still managing to capture these candid scenes in an incredibly delicate and analog way.

office romance - Tribecca, Thu 5:46 PM

Explore Stolen Moments in its entirety for an unexpected encounter with the city’s most human undercurrents.

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