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Private Lives: The Poignant Photography of Gail Albert Halaban

“What we can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what we can perceive taking place behind a pane of window­glass. In that pit, in that blackness or brightness, life is being lived, life is suffering, life is dreaming….” ­ Baudelaire, Windows

Photograph by Gail Albert Halaban

The pandemic has been, for many of us, the defining time of our lives. For the past two years, we have been confined by a situation that has isolated us and kept us from our normal routines, but most importantly, from our fundamental human need to connect. For one of our neighbors, photographer Gail Albert Halaban, this has been a particularly poignant moment in time, and one in which she has used her art to try to make some sense, and indeed some connection, out of the pain of isolation through her project Out My Window, which focuses on the people and places found in and around our neighborhoods.

Gail Albert Halaban

At first blush, one could look at her photos and assume they are the work of a great architectural photographer: the gorgeous composition, the fine detail of the buildings, the light that hits the buildings in the most loving way. But ultimately it is the light that begins to distract the eye. And in that distraction the photograph takes you to the most intimate places. The light from inside the windows draws the viewer to the scenes taking place in the interior of the structures. One becomes aware that these vignettes are cinematic stages within the larger picture. And you are invited in to let the story unfold.

Gail Albert Halaban

“I like to look into people’s windows. At first it might seem a bit creepy. But when you see my photographs you will realize that I’m a friendly window watcher.”

Set within the context of rising city populations and a global construction boom, the photographs of Out My Window present a portrait of how strangers live amongst strangers, the challenges of creating communities, relationships, and privacy. The urban experience is the focus of Halaban’s work and it has become her way of sharing her realization that even alone, we need never be lonely. The process of making the photographs connects neighbor to neighbor, creating community against the loneliness and overpowering scale of the city.

Gail was originally inspired by the sleepless nights she spent as a young mother. She remembers holding her baby at the window in the middle of the night and searching the windows of her neighbors, looking for connection to break the solitude. In her words:

“At times, in those most intimate of moments with my daughter, I caught people returning my gaze. What were they looking at, or looking for? What was I looking for?”

She began to make connections with her neighbors by asking them if she might shoot photographs of their apartments. She then would make connections with her “across the street neighbors” asking them if she could shoot from their windows into the windows of her building. In the process, she began to connect the neighbors to one another and to her own circles of friends.

Bedtime Story Gail Albert Halaban

The window is both a boundary and a gateway, connecting viewer and viewed. When you look at the pictures, you stand in the neighbor’s shoes. Connecting those neighbors, and strengthening that local community lies at the heart of all of Gail’s work. Deeply seated in the artistic layers, beneath the play of light and form, lies human connectivity.

Gail Albert Halaban

Gail is shooting more images in New York City now, in and around our neighborhoods. If you would like to participate in this amazing project, and learn more about your neighbors in the process, reach out to your neighbor Gail! She would love to hear from you. You can learn more about the work, and about the possibility of participating as one of her subjects, on her website by clicking here.

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