See why the New York Times and The New Yorker raved about "Twirl/Run" and why the Wall Street Journal calls Jeff Mermelstein "a contemporary master of street photography." Jeff Mermelstein's pictures are a must see for anyone who claims, or dreams of claiming to be a New Yorker.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
By William Meyers
December 19, 2009
Rick Wester Fine Art has on one of its walls a maquette for a "Twirl/Run Installation" that incorporates some 300 4-by-6, 5-by-7 and 8-by-10-inch machine-made color coupler prints, all pinned together on a canvas board. This is an unusual way for a gallery to display its pictures, but it acknowledges that the point of this particular body of work is not so much individual images as their cumulative effect. The pictures are of women—lots of women, all sorts of women—absent-mindedly twirling their hair as they navigate the sidewalks of New York, and of men and women compelled by who knows what sense of urgency to run wherever it is they are going.
Jeff Mermelstein is a contemporary master of street photography, a uniquely New York genre. He stalks the city with his Leica strapped high on his chest and takes photos as casually as most people blink. "Twirl #6, 2003" shows a brunette with shoulder-length hair with a strand extended for a classic twirl. "Twirl #15, 2004-05" is a young black woman using both hands to twirl a strand of deep red hair. In "Run #9, 1990-2000," a man in a suit carries a briefcase and glances at his watch as he races down a traffic lane. Mr. Mermelstein caught him with both feet off the ground, like one of Eadweard Muybridge's horses.
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THE NEW YORKER
GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN:
Galleries - Chelsea
December 14, 2009
A New York street photographer in the rough-and-tumble tradition of Weegee, Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, and Lee Friedlander, Mermelstein is alert to the idiosyncrasies of people in public. "Twirl / Run," as his new show and book are both titled, has, he admits, "an off-the-wallness" that takes some getting used to. Going through years of accumulated prints, he discovered an unusual number that included girls absent-mindedly twirling locks of hair and others of people (mostly men) sprinting on busy sidewalks. For this project, he's combined the two groups of pictures into a weirdly random view of urban life: aimless, hurried, distracted, driven. The impact of all the contradictory activity is best captured on a wall of small, unframed prints that achieve an invigorating, crazy-quilt density.
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THE NEW YORK TIMES
Showcase: Heads Up
December 3, 2009
by James Estrin
A young woman twirls her hair while riding down an elevator. A bespectacled young man holding a cigarette turns a street corner. If you or I had happened upon the same moment, it would have passed unremarked. And probably unphotographed.
Jeff Mermelstein's new book, "Twirl/Run" (PowerHouse Books) is a collection of photographs of fairly ordinary moments that by themselves seem to lack meaning. Half the book shows women twirling their hair (Slide 1 through Slide 13). Half the book shows people running (Slide 14 through Slide 17).
These are scarcely decisive moments. But turn the pages, and something strange happens. This idiosyncratic view of life on the streets of New York City starts to make existential sense. By defining such moments and assembling them together, Mr. Mermelstein imbues them with meaning.
"I usually do not work with themes, or even ideas," Mr. Mermelstein said. "In 1995, I just noticed a lot of people running and it became kind of a habit. The twirl photographs started about seven years ago with first one, then all of a sudden another, then three in one day. My wife would get sick of me saying, 'I got two twirlers today.'"
As he wandered the city looking for twirlers, Mr. Mermelstein became a bit of an expert. He found that hair twirling peaks in the summer (no hats or scarves) and knows no bounds of race or nationality. It can range from one-strand twirls to a movement involving the full head of hair.
What's at the root of it?
"There's an easy interpetion: reflective of anxiety and tension," Mr. Mermelstein said. "And nervousness. When I had more hair — I still have a little left — I remember twirling nervously, right or left."
"Twirl/Run" is more conceptual than previous books like "SideWalk" and "No Title Here." While working on "Twirl/Run," Mr. Mermelstein found himself letting go of some long-held approaches to photography. Ordinarily, he said, he will torture himself to ensure that each individual picture is better than anything that's come before.
"But this is more about the collection," he added. "Not every one has to be monumental."
Thirty years ago, Mr. Mermelstein studied at the International Center of Photography, as did I. Even then, at 22, he was an eccentric street photographer. For months on end, he would only photograph in the golden light of the last few moments before the sun disappeared.
He's since become a brilliant street photographer while also having a successful editorial career, including work for The New York Times Magazine. He recently reflected on the decades of photography since he chased those elusive slivers of light as a student.
"I was thinking about how good I felt when I made a picture that I love," Mr. Mermelstein said. "I still feel the same way. It means so much to me. I'm certain that in the long run what matters is that it has to mean something to me."
View the original article and slideshow here.
Jeff Mermelstein: Twirl / Run runs through January 16, 2010. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10-6pm, and Saturday, 11-6pm. For further information and images, please contact Sarah Stout at +1 (212) 255-5560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.