FIRE ISLAND The Photography of Meryl Meisler

May 17, 2024
June 30, 2024


2210 1st Avenue S., St. Petersburg, Florida 33713

With great pride, THE WERK, and Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society present FIRE ISLAND The Photography of Meryl Meisler,

a celebration of 1970s Gay Culture. Meryl Meisler captured the sexy, free-spirited, post-Stonewall/pre-AIDS summers on Fire Island with her

camera in the late 1970s. The celebration begins with an opening reception on Friday, May 17th at THE WERK and will continue all weekend


FLASHBACK August 4, 1962: Shocking news! Meryl and friends at Girl Scout Camp Edey in Bayport, Long Island, New York, were stunned—

Marilyn Monroe was found dead. The femme fatale blonde bombshell was gone. A fairy tale came to an end.

A few days later, the Camp Edey Girl Scouts began whispering about another fairy tale. During a nearby beach sleepover, the girls told stories of

Fire Island, a place in the ocean where naked fairies lived in little houses with cute names like "Shirley Temple." Meryl’s curiosity piqued; she

looked across the Great South Bay for the island with naked fairies but could not see a thing.

Summer 1977: Partying at Studio 54 in Manhattan, Meryl befriended a trans woman named Alexa, who introduced her to Barnett, a Manhattan

beautician. Barnett was recovering from a breakup with his business and romantic partner. Enjoying Meryl's company, he invited her for a

weekend at his beach house, "SURVIVOR" in Cherry Grove, Fire Island. Meryl brought along her disco buddy JudiJupiter. Fortunately, Meryl also

brought her camera.

The wild scene quickly awoke Meryl's dormant childhood memory—this was THE Fire Island, the land of naked fairies. Barnett welcomed Meryl

and JudiJupiter to come again anytime, and they did, many summer weekends until Barnett sold "SURVIVOR" in 1979. Fire Island was eye candy

for a young lesbian photographer with a quirky eye. Back in her apartment darkroom, she developed the film, made just two prints, and tucked

the work away until decades later. Many of the images in this show have never been previously exhibited.

Meryl's black-and-white photographs capture the queer communities of Cherry Grove and The Pines at what many consider the golden era of

unbridled sexual liberation. Friends, families, lovers, young people, elders, drag queens, fashionistas, butches, femmes, straight & sassy, bikinied,

high-heeled and barefooted disco dancers, boaters, nude sun-bathers, fun-loving festive people of all diverse backgrounds, sexual and gender

identities, ethnicities, races, colors and creeds rejoicing together on Fire Island.