Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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He walks into the room, momentarily addresses the class, and swiftly proceeds to installing his collection of photographs into the projector.  As if trying to avoid attention, the man works silently until his work is ready for display, only voicing his concern for the abundance of light.  Once the projector turns on, he simply switches from picture to picture and they themselves incite the questions that follow.  If you were to see a man of such simple demeanor toying with his camera in some Manhattan district, you would fail to realize that you are bearing witness to Jeff Mermelstein, worldwide authority on street photography, contributing to an art that is as much his as anybody’s.
Jeff Mermelstein needs little introduction past the fact that he is one of the leading street photographers of the world.  Winner of the European Publishers Award for Photography and holding exhibitions throughout the world, Mermelstein is one of the most acclaimed street photographers in existence today, although he doesn’t like the term “street photography.”  It’s an appropriate dislike, seeing as how his pictures aren’t confined simply to streets.  While many of his pictures are taken in New York’s concrete journal, Mermelstein isn’t shy of drifting into nature parks, beaches, apartments and a plethora of completely dissimilar settings.  Whether it is old women in an apartment playing mahjong or a young man sitting on the pavement, Mermelstein’s style is thoroughly varied.  In fact, the only central theme common to all his works is that they represent the life of real people, neither posing nor modeling and only scarcely aware of the photographer’s presence.  This unique style, coupled with his willingness to shoot thoroughly different settings, results in just one of his collections displaying a wider range of emotions than many other photographers’ entire career reels.
The greatest display of confidence by any artist is in his or her readiness to let their work of art speak for itself and, on that note, Mermelstein does not disappoint.  This artist cycles through his works, only providing background when asked to.  He claims that his roots are in “document[ing] the real world,” a style that asks for unbiased truth.  One can make a work of art look howsoever he or she pleases but documentation means to find the absolute truth and let the viewer make the judgment, something Mermelstein never fails to do.
While his down to earth mannerisms may lie in sharp contrast to the level of success he has seen, there is no denying that Jeff Mermelstein is talented, to say the least.  If you ever see him walking along your street, don’t bother with an autograph.  Instead, go visit one of his exhibitions; his works do this man more justice than his words ever could.


1 Katie Alarcon { 12.01.08 at 6:44 am }

FIRST OFF I THINK YOUR CAPITALIZATION IS VERY VERY EXPRESSIVE! I couldn’t help but read this passage with you voice in my head. That being said I have to say your written “voice” is full of personality and confidence. This no doubt springs from Jeff Mermelstein’s solid presence and achievements. i particularly liked your opening description of Mr. Mermelstein. The use of the comma’s to add choppiness to the sentence illustrates his purposefulness and illuminates us all to his character.

2 msgardow { 12.01.08 at 4:53 pm }

I like the way you have described his style. You also express his impression on you without explicitly stating it which is admirable.