Meryl Meisler was born in 1951 in the South Bronx and raised in North Massapequa, Long Island, NY. Inspired by Diane Arbus, Jacques Henri Lartigue, and her dad Jack and grandfather Murray Meisler, 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, photographing 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 that explored Jewish Identity for the American Jewish Congress. After CETA, Meryl began a 3-decade career as an N.Y.C. Public School Art Teacher.
Meryl was honored with the 2021 Center for Photography at Woodstock Affinity Award. She is included among The Hundred Heroines – a celebration of Women in Photography. TIME includes her in their selection of women trailblazers in photography: The Unsung American Female Photographers of the Past Century.
Meryl has received fellowships, grants, and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Light Work, Y.A.D.D.O., V.C.C.A., Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The Leonian Foundation, 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, CLAMP, Dia Art Foundation, Everson Art Museum, MASS MoCA, Islip Art Museum, Griffin Museum, Annenberg Space for Photography, the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New-York Historical Society, Steven Kasher Gallery, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Fotogalerie Friedrichshein (Berlin), Carole Lambert Presénte (Paris), Portraits Festival (Vichy) in public spaces including Grand Central Terminal, South Street Seaport, Photoville and throughout the N.Y.C. subway system. Her work is in the permanent collections of theAmerican Jewish Congress, AT&T, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, theBrooklyn Historical Society, Center for Photography at Woodstock, ColumbiaUniversity, Emory University, Islip Art Museum, LaGrange Art Museum, Library ofCongress, New York Transit Museum, Pfizer, Reuters, and Smith College Museum ofArt.
Upon retiring from the N.Y.C. public schools, she 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 N.Y.C. street and nightlife. Her latest monograph, New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco (Parallel Pictures Press 2021) makes her first books seem like fairytales. She has returned to her analog roots in the darkroom, making gelatin silver prints of contemporary images and never seen photos from her enormous archive.
Meryl lives and works in New York City and Woodstock, NY, continuing the photographic memoir she began in 1973 – a uniquely American story, sweet and sassy with a pinch of mystery. CLAMP represents her work.