Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Jeff Mermelstein

Street photography was a realm of art in which I had never entered. It was completely foreign to me, I was aware of its existence, and that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge on the subject. So, any type of exposure to the subject of seeing any examples of it from any artist would have been an enriching experience. When I was told the prolific street photographer Jeff Mermelstein would be coming into our class to personally show us some of his work I figured it would be something I had never really seen before and it would be intriguing to hear about the photos from the person who actually took them.
I didn’t know what to expect when Mr. Mermelstein was coming in, I could not envision what I thought he would look like or what his personality would be like. It turns out that his humor and his demeanor would be captivating. He started out telling a little bit about himself and his philosophy in regards to street photography. He admitted that he didn’t necessarily like the title “street photographer” because of the certain stigma that came with it. He went on to talk about the photos themselves and described his love for color in his photos and the “M&M like seduction” that color in photos could possess.
His photos were nothing like what I thought street photography was. It wasn’t just of skyscrapers and city landmarks. There was a sense of action or movement in almost all of his photos. Something always seemed to be going on, and we as the viewers just happened to stumble upon it. When asked about his work process, he described the endless walking and the inconceivable ratio of pictures taken to pictures actually used. He also spoke about the way he shoots his photos. He still uses film and he likes the idea that sometimes something will be in a photo, and said  “I didn’t see it when I took the picture.” He enjoyed that element of surprise.
One photo in particular really stood out to me. It was a photo of a car that had driven through a storefront with pedestrians nonchalantly passing by. It was a very bizarre scene to see. Based on the way he works, it is safe to say that he probably just stumbled upon this scene, I mean, it’s not likely that someone informed him that this had occurred and suggested that he go and check it out. So, it lead me to believe that street photography also has a lot to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time. When asked about how he found this incident, he jokingly said, “I drove my car through the window and got out and took the photo. It was an old car anyway so, it was worth it.”
I had never met a photographer before, except for the ones at weddings and bar mitzvahs, but none that actually took their photos not necessarily to preserve memories but perhaps to create new ones. The photos of a street photographer can evoke emotions and feelings that a family portrait simply cannot compare to. There is a certain element to the way they look that creates movement within the stillness.