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    New York Times: Window Watchers in a City of Strangers

    The New York Times has an interesting story about what people can see when looking out their apartment windows and into others’ homes:

    The ability to observe the private lives of strangers from the windows of our homes — and the knowledge that they can often watch us, as well — has long been a staple of city life, one that was immortalized in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film “Rear Window.” It has provided material for countless movies and books since then, most recently “The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York,” a book of drawings by Matteo Pericoli that asks well-known New Yorkers to describe what they see from their windows, and is the subject of “Out My Window NYC,” a new series of photographs by Gail Albert Halaban.

    This often inadvertent voyeurism gives rise to relationships that can be deeply meaningful, although the people involved may never actually meet, said Ethel Sheffer, an urban planner and past president of the American Planning Association’s New York Metro Chapter. “One doesn’t always know their names, but it’s a connection of some sort and it becomes part of the fabric of your life,” Ms. Sheffer said. “The density and the closeness, even if it’s anonymous,” creates a sense of intimacy, she added, and “makes for an understanding that we’re all here” together. […]

    For Mr. Hamilton, though, what is sometimes more disturbing than the things he has seen out his windows — including strangers in the heat of romance “so many times I don’t even watch anymore” — is the thought that others can observe him, even doing mundane things like taking out the garbage or watching television.

    “I want privacy,” he said. “The home where I grew up in South Carolina was at least three miles to its nearest neighbor.”

    When he is showing clients ground-floor apartments that face the street, he said, he warns them that living there “is a bit like being on display, like in a store.”

    Ms. Pearson Feinn, the painter, said she long ago got used to the idea that neighbors can see into her loft, which has 16 enormous windows.

    When she had one of her first dinner parties after months of remodeling, a neighbor who had watched the construction and was having his own dinner party that night stood up with his guests and applauded Ms. Pearson Feinn’s gathering.

    “I thought it was a hoot,” she said, but one of her guests took offense, because he “felt his privacy was being invaded.”

    Some people, in fact, claim to observe an unwritten code of looking away when they inadvertently observe something too private.

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