Meryl Meisler: New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco

Meryl Meisler’s scintillating book New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco is an intimate journey to the pandemonium and paradise of the 1970s through early 1990s New York City.
Meryl documented a tumultuous time in NYC’s history – epidemics of arson, crime, crack, and AIDS, intensified by a paralyzing blackout, and political and fiscal crisis. Frequenting Manhattan’s legendary discos that arose amongst disorder, she captured hedonistic havens, celebrities, and revelers of the night. In contrast, daylight revealed the beauty of those who loved and thrived in burnt-out Bushwick, where she was a public school art teacher who photographed what she saw. Her effervescent images are personal memoirs – love letters filled with compassion and humor mixed with angst, kept secret for decades until she retired from teaching. Meryl was headed to Studio54 the night of the ‘77 Blackout; the next day, she and the world heard of Bushwick, a hellish neighborhood where fires and looting erupted.
In 2013, at BIZARRE, a Bushwick Drag / Burlesque Nightclub, she noticed a disco ball in the restroom, another over the dance floor: an epiphany!
Bushwick was now THE sizzling club scene. The disparate worlds of Bushwick and Disco collided, becoming intertwining strands of NYC’s story and her journey. She realized the two bodies of work belonged together. Meryl’s internationally acclaimed books, “A Tale of Two Cities Disco Era Bushwick” (2014) and “Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City” (2015) were just tips of the iceberg.

She kept digging into her archive, finding hidden treasures. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco takes a unique turn, from clandestine clubs into the classroom – students and staff creating a safer space to learn despite societal ills of poverty and prejudice. Her street photos radiate the joys of daily life amidst hardship. The nightlife images expose the edgiest, darkest activities she has ever shown. Flash forward four decades: Bushwick is a hub of new music, art, fashion, literature, nightlife, and creative thinking. Many bemoan the gentrification of neighborhoods like Bushwick. There is nostalgia and sorrow for what’s lost in the change process. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco shows that people can find calm amid chaos, and rediscover and rebuild. It resonates today as communities worldwide struggle to cope and recover from the pandemic. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco is a true story of the resilient human spirit – determination to preserve, revitalize, appreciate, and create anew. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco was made possible in part by a grant from The Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.

About the Author

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 as well as her dad Jack and grandfather Murray 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.

A portrait of Meryl Meisler by Kevin Frest

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. Her work is in the permanent collections of the American Jewish Congress, ARTPPOOL Budapest, AT&T, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Brooklyn Historical Society, Book Art Museum- Poland, Columbia University, Emory University, Islip Art Museum, LaGrange Art Museum, Library of Congress, Musée de la Poste Paris, New York Transit Museum, Pfizer, Reuters, Smith College Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institute, University of Iowa, The Waskomium and can be found in the artist book collections of Carnegie Melon, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Chrysler Museum, the Museum of Modern Art N.Y.C., Metronome Library, and Whitney Museum of American Art. 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 fairy tales. 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. ClampArt represents her work.

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Parallel Pictures Press; 1st edition (June 5, 2021)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0578831821
ISBN-13: 978-0578831824

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