For a taste of what Bushwick looked like 40 years ago, take a stroll down Palmetto Street past the Roland Hayes schoolyard. There, you’ll see 20 photos taken decades ago by photographer Meryl Meisler, who taught and photographed life in and around the school for 11 years, from 1981-1992.

The images, which are a part of this year’s Photoville Festival, running until December 1, are appropriately tied to the schoolyard fence, exactly where some of the photos were taken decades ago. 

The photo’s caption reads: “The School Yard Fence Face To Face. Bushwick, 1983”

The exhibit, titled “Paradise Lost & Found: Bushwick,” was curated by the principal of Roland Hayes, Janice E. Bruce. 

“Ms. Bruce and I hope that viewers see the exhibit as a celebration of the beautiful, beating heart of the people and places of this resilient community,” Meisler told Bushwick Daily. “The installation asks the viewer to reflect on Bushwick’s past, present and future.”

After Meisler, who was born in the South Bronx and raised in North Massapequa, NY, studied photography in college, she went on to become a New York City public school art teacher, a job she worked for 31 years. 

Upon retiring, Meisler, who is also known for photographing the famous NYC discos of the 1970s, began releasing large bodies of unseen photos in the books “A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick” and “New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco.” 

The photos exhibited on the fence of Roland Hayes come from those two books. 

Fixing a bike in Bushwick. Image: Meryl Meisler 1982
Neighborhood kids walking in front of a graffitied abandoned storefront. Image: Meryl Meisler 1982
Bushwick snow storm. Image: Meryl Meisler 1982

“Forty years feels biblical to me,” said Meisler. “Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, across the Red Sea, and they wandered 40 years through the wilderness to the Promised Land. My photographs were tucked away for decades, slowly uncovered, and are now back where they belong – near the people and places in Bushwick of recent history.”

On Saturday, Oct. 16, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Meisler and Principal Bruce are leading a free walking tour of the exhibit, located at 231 Palmetto St. 

“Bring your curiosity, camera and comfortable shoes to explore this open-air exhibition installed on the schoolyard fence and visit its surrounding block,” Meisler suggests. “Surprise speakers and performers are expected.”


Featured Image: Jackson Schroeder

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