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Photo exhibit celebrates people-watching through apartment windows

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Gail Albert Halaban
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Flatiron, Manhattan, Cakes and Balloons, 2009.

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.

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Credit Gail Albert Halaban
Upper East Side, Manhattan, 1438 3rd Ave, Families Just Before Dinner, 2008.

"They sent me balloons and flowers," she says, "and a note saying, 'It's been fun watching your daughter grow up.' And we had never met them."

At first, Halaban says, she was a little creeped out.

"But then I walked over and met them and they said how much they enjoyed watching our lives through the window and it gave them a sense of community and comfort. So I was curious who else had that feeling."

This sparked an idea that became a photo exhibit, Out My Window. In it, Halaban put out a call to anyone watching their neighbors’ lives through windows, then she invited them to meet one another, and set up photo shoots from each perspective.

The exhibit feels voyeuristic, but also strangely comforting.

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Credit Gail Albert Halaban
Rue de Douai, Paris-9e, 2013.

"I think so much of our connections with people right now are virtual. This project sort of grew up as social media was taking off, and more and more people were losing contact with people in their neighborhood directly across from them so this is sort of reclaiming that physical connection."

Halaban has set up these meetings and photographed people all over New York City, and in other cities across the world.

The exhibit also includes an interactive portion where participants can operate a camera in her New York City apartment remotely.

Out My Window is on display at the Eastman Museum until January 1.