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

When he walked into the room, Jeff Mermelstien exuded an air of nervousness.  He kept his head down and said little as he surveyed the small class and edged his tall body toward the back.  The few things he said were calm and bored sounding as he first opened his mouth to introduce himself and to ask for help setting up.  It was as though he had the distinct impression that we as a class were going to verbally attack him and his art at the first possible opening.  He set up his slides and steeled himself for a blank and humorless hour and a half.  He obviously did not realize the kind of class he was dealing with. Not only did we find his pictures intriguing and occasionally hilarious, which the back row greatly appreciated, he was interesting as well.  The uncomfortably dubbed “street photographer” showed us old pictures, ones from his book Sidewalk and others he remained connected to over the years.  He told back-stories and explained inspirations. As he flipped through slide after slide, his opening statement of “being seduced by color” made more and more sense.  Neon red and old ladies outfits and all the different browns and grays found swimming in his photos clearly showed this passion.
As the slides slid on, his nervousness ebbed away and he began to laugh with us and crack jokes.  He appreciated our side comments and initial reactions.  Then, as the last of his doubts faded away and he remembered that teenagers are people too, he allowed himself to become part of the class for the last few minutes.