Meryl Meisler, a toast “to life”!

Dressed in a tutu, a young girl with milky skin, leaning back in an easy chair, feet in the air and head down, arms outstretched, looks at us, hilarious. Forty-five years later, the same mischievous gaze lights up Meryl Meisler’s face as she gazes amused at this self-portrait taken in the living room of the family home, located in Massapequa, a residential area south of Long Island in New York State.

At 16, armed with her first camera, the teenager began a photographic diary, in the manner of Jacques Henri Lartigue, whom she cited with Diane Arbus as her masters in photography. New year, bar mitzvah, wedding, family meal, session at the hairdresser… In luminous black and white, she humorously captures snapshots of her family’s life, rich in fantasy and joie de vivre. This same sense of celebration animates the Mystery Club, a group of ten Jewish families from the neighborhood, including his parents. In turn, a couple from the group organizes a surprise outing: haunted house, Chinese cooking class, cabaret evening… “My brothers and I were fascinated by the story of our parents’ evenings. Later, I will want to photograph the groups having fun. I chose to turn my gaze towards what gives me joy and optimism. »

In 1975, after an artistic training at the University of Wisconsin, she moved to New York where she took photography lessons with Lisette Model, without imagining making a career out of it. During the day, she tries to make a name for herself as an illustrator, in the evening, camera screwed around her neck, she skims the tracks of clubs and discotheques. In the mid-1970s, New York nightlife was booming, punk bars, disco scene, Latin club, striptease club, Meryl was there for all the parties. « I’m never going to take pictures, I take pictures where I go. »

In the early 1980s, tired of doing odd jobs, she became a plastic arts teacher. She landed her first job in a public college in Bushwick, north of Brooklyn, a neighborhood then in full disinheritance. Change of scenery but not usual, she continues to photograph those around her, now in color with a cheap camera – otherwise too dangerous. True to her motto, she chooses to show the beauty and strength of life, even in the greatest poverty. It was not until her retirement, taken in 2010, that she opened her boxes where these nuggets had been dormant for thirty years. According to Fany Dupêchez, artistic director of the festival, Meryl Meisler is “one of the best kept secrets in American photography « . Let’s bet it won’t stay that way for long.


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