Meryl Meisler was born 1951 in the South Bronx and raised in North Massapequa, Long Island, New York. Inspired by photographers such as Diane Arbus and Jacques Henri Lartigue, as well as her dad, Jack, and grandfather, Murray Meisler, Meryl Meisler began photographing herself, family, and friends while enrolled in a photography class taught by Cavalliere Ketchum at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1975, Meisler returned to New York City and studied with Lisette Model, continuing to photograph her hometown and the city around her. After working as a freelance illustrator by day, Meisler frequented and photographed the infamous New York discos. As a 1978 C.E.T.A. Artist grant recipient, Meisler created a portfolio of photographs which explored her Jewish identity for the American Jewish Congress. After C.E.T.A., Meisler began a three-decade career as a NYC Public School Art Teacher.
Meisler has received fellowships, grants, and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Light Work, YADDO, The Puffin Foundation, Time Warner, Artists Space, C.E.T.A., the China Institute, and the Japan Society. Her work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Historical Society, Dia Art Foundation, MASS MoCA, Islip Art Museum, Annenberg Space for Photography, the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New-York Historical Society, Steven Kasher Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and in public spaces including Grand Central Terminal, South Street Seaport, Photoville, and throughout the New York City subway system. Her work is in the permanent collections of the American Jewish Congress, ARTPPOOL Budapest, AT&T, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Brooklyn Historical Society, Book Art Museum (Poland), Columbia University, Emory University, Islip Art Museum, the Library of Congress, Musée de la Poste Paris, Smithsonian Institute, University of Iowa, and The Waskomium, and can be found in the artist book collections of Carnegie Mellon, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Chrysler Museum, the Museum of Modern Art NYC, Metronome Library, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Upon retiring from the New York City public schools, Meisler began releasing large bodies of previously unseen work. Her first monograph, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick (Bizarre, 2014), received international acclaim. The book juxtaposes her zenith of disco photos with images of the burned out yet beautiful neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn in the 1980s. Her second book, Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy ‘70s, Suburbia & The City (Bizarre, 2015), contrasts intimate images of home life on Long Island alongside New York City street and night life.
Meryl Meisler lives and works in New York City and Woodstock, New York.