Bushwick Then and Now: A Photographer’s Recollection

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — In the early 1980s, photographer Meryl Meisler stepped off the subway in Bushwick on her way to interview for a teaching position and found herself in what looked like a war-torn landscape.

“Honestly, the first thought I had was, ‘The other art teacher has been killed.’ Why was there an opening the week before Christmas? And this place, it looked like a combination of Beirut at the time and Hiroshima,” she said in a presentation at B&H Photo.

Getting to know the area amid Bushwick’s descent into its darkest days, Meisler documented the neighborhood over the next 14 years. In her talk, she shares some of the photography from the era that in some ways hardly resembles today’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhood I’ve called home since 2007.

“I photographed things that were positive to me. I did not photograph the crack vials and the heroin and the junkies,” she said. “I was there for the long term, so these are my memories.”

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Furniture on a sidewalk with elevated subway tracks in the background.
A view of Bushwick’s Myrtle-Wyckoff subway stop. (Photo by Meryl Meisler)

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