Love these onderful shots by Meryl Meisler. Honestly, when I look at these photos the first thing I think is that they could all be really amazing album/single covers for a Punk Rock band. Fantastic work.
From AmericanPhoto Mag
The love of photography is part of my heritage. My dad Jack, a printer by trade, was an avid photographer, as was his brother Al and their father Murray Meisler. Dad’s subject was our family; he documented all our life events and family gatherings. At seven my parents gave me a 620 box camera. At my sweet sixteen I got an Instamatic and used that throughout my teens and in undergrad. In graduate school, at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I thought it would be a good idea to learn how to use a “real camera.”
The instructor, Cavalliere Ketchum, showed us Jacques Henri Lartigue's photographs which were taken when he was a child in early nineteenth century Paris. I loved his zany photos of his family in their period attire. Lartigue’s fun loving action snapshots of his family and friends inspired me to photograph my immediate family and friends—the people I knew.
The majority of the people I grew up with in Long Island had roots in the City. The suburbia I knew was neighborhood after neighborhood of predominantly first and second generation Americans, who grew up poor during the Great Depression, mostly in The Bronx or Brooklyn, and bought their homes with the GI bill with the hope of giving their children a better life. Nearly everyone had a two-parent household with two or more kids. Divorced and single parent households were rare. I can’t even recall a family that had only one child.
My parents bought a brand new split-level development home in North Massapequa, Long Island in 1954, when I was two years old. The farmland that originally surrounded our development grew into more developments so rapidly I don’t even remember the open land other than in my father’s photographs of the of our house being built.
Photography was commonplace in our family, I was just “taking it up a notch,” occasionally using two clamp lights and a tripod in addition to the flash. The fact that the photos were for a class made them even more important. When someone would say “enough with the camera,” I put it away for the day.
When I showed the contact sheets to Cavalliere, he couldn’t get over the ornately decorated interiors. To me, they looked totally normal. This is where I came from—everyone’s homes had a distinctive, yet similar, flair. I used my Long Island portfolio to apply for and receive a CETA grant to be a documentary photographer for the American Jewish Congress.
Years later, my book Disco Era Bushwick was receiving rave reviews internationally. So many people commented that my Bushwick photos showed humor and love amidst the neighborhood in a state of distress. I realized immediately, that the next project needed to be the prequel, to literally explain where I was coming from. I come from a background of love and humor—despite tragedy and tumultuous relationships and events. I proposed a coming of age story, contrasting and comparing the suburban life I knew in Long Island and life I discovered moving to NYC in 1975.
I hadn’t looked through those thousands of Long Island negatives in nearly forty years. I was surprised to see how strong and full of energy the images were.
Meryl Meisler was born 1951 in the South Bronx and raised in North Massapequa, Long Island, NY. Inspired by Diane Arbus and Jacques Henri Lartigue, Meryl began photographing herself, family, and friends while enrolled in a photography class taught by Cavalliere Ketchum at The University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1975, Meryl returned to New York City and studied with Lisette Model, continuing to photograph her hometown and the city around her. After working as a freelance illustrator by day, Meryl frequented and photographed the infamous New York Discos. As a 1978 CETA Artist grant recipient, Meryl created a portfolio of photographs which explored her Jewish Identity for the American Jewish Congress. After CETA, Meryl began a 31 year career as a NYC Public School Art Teacher.
Meisler has received fellowships and grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Puffin Foundation, Time Warner, Artists Space, C.E.T.A., the China Institute and the Japan Society. Her work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Historical Society, Dia Art Foundation, MASS MoCA, the New Museum for Contemporary Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art and in public spaces including Grand Central Terminal, South Street Seaport and throughout the NYC subway system. Her work is in the permanent collections of the American Jewish Congress, AT&T, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Brooklyn Historical Society, Columbia University, Emory University, Islip Art, and the Library of Congress, and can be found in the artist book collections of Carnegie Melon, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Chrysler Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, Metronome Library and Whitney Museum of American Art.
Upon retiring from the NYC public school system in 2010, Meisler began releasing large bodies of previously unseen work. Meryl’s first monograph A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick (Bizarre, 2014), received international acclaim. The book juxtaposes her zenith of disco photos with images of the burned out yet beautiful neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn in the 1980s. Her second book, Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City (Bizarre, 2015), contrasts intimate images of home life on Long Island alongside NYC street and night life.
Meryl lives and works in New York City, continuing the photographic memoir she began in 1973 – a uniquely American story, sweet and sassy with a pinch of mystery.