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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler’s Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

New York City: a place of constant change, where people and places are always moving. Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, is no exception. Photographer Meryl Meisler captured this ever-shifting landscape in her photos from the 1980s. Her work, showcased in the “Bushwick Chronicle” exhibition, provides a glimpse into a unique time and place in New York City’s history.

Meisler arrived in Bushwick in 1981, taking a job as an art teacher at Intermediate School 291. The neighborhood wasn’t exactly welcoming at first glance. Surrounded by abandoned buildings and a sense of despair, it was a far cry from the vibrant disco scene Meisler had been photographing in Manhattan just a few years earlier. Still, she decided to stay, and her camera became a way to document her surroundings.

At first, Meisler hesitated to bring her camera to school. A previous experience with theft made her cautious. But the streets of Bushwick, with their vibrant characters and crumbling buildings, were too fascinating to ignore. She started carrying a simple point-and-shoot camera, capturing the everyday life of the neighborhood.

Meisler’s photos show Bushwick as a place of contrasts. Children played amidst the rubble of abandoned buildings. Schools served as both places of learning and sanctuaries from the surrounding chaos. Dedicated teachers like Meisler provided stability and hope in a community struggling with poverty and neglect.

Walking to and from the subway each day was an adventure for Meisler. Each street had its own unique atmosphere and stories to tell. From the people she encountered to the buildings that seemed to whisper secrets of the past, Bushwick was never dull. Meisler’s photos are like quick snapshots, capturing the essence of a moment in time. They offer glimpses into the lives of the people who called Bushwick home and the buildings that stood as silent witnesses to the neighborhood’s history.

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#1 Bushwick,” Brooklyn, 1990

Bushwick,” Brooklyn, 1990

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#2 Nose Ring, Earring, Mustache and Hickey IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1991

Nose Ring, Earring, Mustache and Hickey IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1991

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#3 Spring Snowstorm Through Classroom Window Gates Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

Spring Snowstorm Through Classroom Window Gates Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#4 Tasty Pretzel Bakeries Starr St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

Tasty Pretzel Bakeries Starr St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#5 Family Picnic Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

Family Picnic Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#6 Cafeteria Finger GestureIS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1990

Cafeteria Finger GestureIS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1990

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#7 Magnolia Tree Gates Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

Magnolia Tree Gates Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#8 Fix Bike Citadel of Hope – Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

Fix Bike Citadel of Hope – Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#9 School Bus and Curbside Crushed Cars Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1985

School Bus and Curbside Crushed Cars Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1985

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#10

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#11 Shirtless Man Wearing Hood and JeansGates Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

Shirtless Man Wearing Hood and JeansGates Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#12 Guardian Angel in My Classroom IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

Guardian Angel in My Classroom IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#13 Discussion During Gym IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

Discussion During Gym IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#14 Three IS 291 Grads Pose Near Cars Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

Three IS 291 Grads Pose Near Cars Palmetto St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1982

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#15 Bunnies Classroom Kiss IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn. 1984

Bunnies Classroom Kiss IS 291, Bushwick, Brooklyn. 1984

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#16 The Gospel Tabernacle and Linden Bakery Linden St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

The Gospel Tabernacle and Linden Bakery Linden St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 1983

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#17 Handshake, Bushwick, Brooklyn 1984

Handshake, Bushwick, Brooklyn 1984

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#18 Boyz 2 Men, Bushwick, Brooklyn 1982

Boyz 2 Men, Bushwick, Brooklyn 1982

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#19 Roller Skates. Bushwick, circa 1984.

Roller Skates. Bushwick, circa 1984.

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#20 Pink Twins. Bushwick, circa 1983

Pink Twins. Bushwick, circa 1983

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#21 Senator Miranda, Bushwick, Brooklyn 1982

Senator Miranda, Bushwick, Brooklyn 1982

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#22 Muscle Boy and The Little Rascals of Palmetto Street. Bushwick, 1982.

Muscle Boy and The Little Rascals of Palmetto Street. Bushwick, 1982.

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#23

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#24

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#25

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#26

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#27

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#28 Performers Take Break at Stoop, Bizarre Bushwick

Performers Take Break at Stoop, Bizarre Bushwick

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#29 Folk Circus Umbrella Dance

Folk Circus Umbrella Dance

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#30

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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#31

Bushwick Through Meryl Meisler's Lens: A Look Back at a New York Neighborhood in the 1980s

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Written by Kimberly Adams

Kimberly Adams is passionate about classic movies, actors, and actresses. She offers a fresh perspective on timeless films and the stars who made them unforgettable. Her work is an ode to the glamour and artistry of a bygone era, and a tribute to the enduring appeal of classic cinema.

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