Kids breakdancing. Workers in matching yellow aprons hosing down a graffitied street. A person standing amidst the rubble of a scorched building. A performance artist posing in a tub.

This is Bushwick through the lenses of two local, prolific photographers: Meryl Meisler and Rafael Fuchs. 

Their collaborative archive of Bushwick photos — which spans four decades — will be on view at the Thames Art Center as part of the annual Bushwick Open Studios, from September 17 to October 1.  

Meryl Meisler and Rafael Fuchs in boxing gloves, a playful reference to the way their photos sometimes juxtapose one another. Courtesy of Rafael Fuchs.

The gallery show, aptly titled BUSHWICK X FUCHS X MEISLER, is a visual discussion between the two award-winning photographers who, combined, have been documenting Bushwick from 1981 to the present day. 

Hosted and organized by Arts in Bushwick, Bushwick Open Studios is a weekend-long series of free events and art shows that spotlights local artists and makers. 

Meisler, “the original Bushwick beatnik,” said her images are of “pre-gentrified” Bushwick and were captured while she taught art in the neighborhood’s public schools 1981-1994. 

“In the eighties, people were leaving the neighborhood in droves,” Meisler said. “The people who stayed — they had a lot of pride in their neighborhood, and so did I. There’s a tenacity and warmth in Bushwick. I wanted to capture it on camera.”

“Willie’s Bushwick T-Shirt, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. March 1990″ from the series “New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco.” Courtesy of Meryl Meisler.

Her contributions to the exhibit come from her latest book, “New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco,” which came out this year. 

In the two-artist show, Fuchs is showing work mostly from 2005-2011, which he calls the “early period of gentrification” in Bushwick. His contributions are mainly from his book, “Bushwick Forever – Volume 1,” but a few are recent and unpublished works. 

Fuchs said the idea for a dual-artist show came about when Meisler sent him some of her Bushwick photography. For each image she sent, he responded by juxtaposing it with a photo of his own.

“This show is a conversation between me and [Meisler] in photos,” Fuchs said. “And in the conversation, we talk about what is changing in the neighborhood, and what is staying the same.” 

Rafael Fuchs with his photography of Bushwick. Photo of Rafael Fuchs by Miranda Levingston for Bushwick Daily.

One of the most dramatic differences in their photos over the years, both artists noted, is the gentrification of the neighborhood. 

“You can see how things change in the photos,” Fuchs said. “[Meisler] and I are photographers, storytellers. We’re not historians, but we’ve documented a great deal of change just by photographing our everyday lives.”

“I think it’s important for anyone who lives anywhere to be conscious about what came before them,” Meisler said. “To have some sense of history and appreciation — I want viewers to see that Bushwick has always had a powerful sense of spirit.”

The Thames Art Center, which opened in December 2020, is at 147 Thames Street in Bushwick. The opening reception for the show will take place on September 17 from 6-9 p.m.

A guided exhibition walk-through will occur on Sunday, Sept. 19, from 2-3 p.m. Signed copies of books will be available during the exhibition.


Top Photo: “Superette Botanica, Knickerbocker Ave., Bushwick, June 1982,” from the series “New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco.” Courtesy of Meryl Meisler.

For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.

Join the fight to save local journalism by becoming a paid subscriber.


Join the fight to save local journalism by becoming a paid subscriber. We’ll throw in a tote bag and a yellow card.