Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Jeff Mermelstein

As Jeff Mermelstein displayed his collection of photographs, all went silent except for the old-fashioned whirring sounds of the projector. At times, he stopped at a photo and briefly gave a caption. The class burst out in laughter at some of his photos: a model’s almost-naked photo shoot, a woman’s badly sun-burnt back, a yawning businessman, and the behinds of elephants. Mermelstein’s photos were amusing and filled the room with laughter. Not only did he share his collection of street photography, but he also displayed his humorous personality.
Jeff Mermelstein is an award-winning photographer who creates photojournalistic work and has featured some of his photos in major publications like Life Magazine, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. He has published two books called “The Sidewalk” and “No Title Here”. He explains that he is identified as a “street photographer” but does not like the implication. Throughout his series of pictures, I realized that most of his photographs were of crashes or accidents. Most of his subjects are normal yet strange New York pedestrians who are often caught on camera off-guard.
His first book “Sidewalk” is a collection of color photographs spanning twelve years in New York. He describes his interest in color as an “M&M color-like seduction” and enjoys taking photos that document the real world, therefore not cropping or altering the photographs in any way. His idea of fun is making and developing his photos using film. He likes the degree of the unknown because it is unexpected and surprising.
At first, you may think Jeff Mermelstein takes ordinary photographs of ordinary targets in New York. However, at a closer look, we see that his technique of observing the usual captures the unusual. One example is the photograph of a pigeon on the sidewalk. At first glance, the class realized it was a pigeon and saw nothing strange until attention drew the eyes to the small pool of blood created from the bird’s injured beak.  At other times, Mermelstein depends on luck and serendipity, as evident by a photo of two legs reflected in the window of an office, creating a complete body with another man in the office. It looked as if two photos were superimposed to make one but it was that defining moment, that second that he took the picture that created this illusion. Above everything, Mermelstein likes the “loose, free-flowing approach” that street photography gives and snaps at “anything of everything at all times.”