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‘A Tale of Two Cities:’ Bushwick and Disco Collide in These Photos of NYC in the 1970s and 1980s

Studio 54, NY, NY,  July 1979

Open Mouthed Judi Jupiter, Andy Warhol and His Friend, Studio 54, NY, NY, July 1979

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Muscle Boy and The Little Rascals of Palmetto Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY, May 1982

For A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick, photographer Meryl Meisler delves into two distinct archives of New York City history, merging under one volume her snapshots of a thriving Manhattan night life and a struggling Bushwick, Brooklyn. In her 20s, Meisler frequented such hot spots as Studio 54, Paradise Garage, or Xenon. Just a few years later in 1981, she took a job as a public school art teacher in Bushwick, where she began shooting in daylight, capturing an untold story that persisted just a few miles away from a flourishing Manhattan.

In the years following the catastrophic blackout, Bushwick was ravaged by looting, riots, and an all-hands fire set to an abandoned knitting mill. Buildings were abandoned, and over 250 families were displaced, propelling the community into an era dominated in part by drug use and crime. Though hesitant in her new surroundings, Meisler was compelled by the vibrancy that shone through the disordered neighborhood, bringing with her her point-and-shoot camera wherever she went.

Under Meisler’s gaze, Bushwick and Manhattan run parallel to one another as an unlikely set of twins, obviously divergent yet united under the ineffable energy of a particular era in a single city. Despite the social tensions that at times divided disco-era New York, both bodies of work exude a palpable thrill of vitality. In the iconic captures of Andy Warhol, William Shatner, Grace Jones, and Gloria Steinem, we find a raw, irreverent courage of spirit that mirrors that of school children in Bushwick, as if throughout the entire city, a budding sense of metamorphosis and rebirth bubbled just beneath the surface.

Woman With Ratify The ERA Button and Gloria Steinman

Woman With Ratify The ERA Button and Gloria Steinem, Studio 54, NY, NY, July 1977

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Roller Skates, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY, Circa 1984

Elbows at Angles

Elbows at Angles, Infinity, NY, NY, August 1977

Silver Kiss

Silver Kiss, Xenon, NY, NY, June 1977

ansel_adams.final

Ode to Ansel Adams, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY March 1982

Prom Queen Contender

Prom Queen Contender, Les Mouches, NY, NY, June 1978

Grace Jones la farfalle

Grace Jones Arrives on Opening Night La Farfalle, NY, NY, June 1978

Unisex Beauty Salon

Beauty Salon, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY, Circa 1984

Two 4 One Muscles

Two 4 One Muscles (Judi Jupiter) Les Mouches, NY, NY, May 1978

Feminine Floored

Feminine Floored, Hurrah, New York, March, 1978

All images © Meryl Meisler

Via Gothamist