Sex, Drugs, and Disco: Decadent Photos From 1970s New York

When you compare present-day New York to any photo from the 1970s, it’s instantly understandable why anybody who lived here 30 or 40 years ago will tell you that it’s become an entirely different city. Back then, it looked like the end times were fast approaching: buildings were falling apart, people were dancing, doing drugs, and having sex with reckless abandon, and it seemed like the city was just about to collapse for any number of reasons, from financial to infrastructure.

Taking her medium-format camera out to Studio 54 in the 1970s and then later to the now rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn area of Bushwick in the 1980s, Meryl Meisler shot some of the era’s greatest photos. Now, they’re finally getting their due with a book and exhibition, both titled A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick, that recall a New York that is long gone. Check out some of her work below.

Prom Queen Contender
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“Prom Queen Contender,” Les Mouches, NYC, 1978

High hat
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“High Hat Hand Raised,” Bushwick, 1982

Sherlock
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“Sherlock’s Shadow,” Bushwick, circa 1982

Ring
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“Turquoise Ring,” Studio 54, 1977

Roller
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“Roller Skates,” Bushwick, circa 1984

Spinning opening
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“DJ’s spinning at La Farfalle’s Opening Night,” NYC, 1978

Bushwickhand
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“Handshake,” Bushwick, 1984

2for1musces
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“Two for One Muscles,” Les Mouches, 1978

Elbows at
Photo credit: Meryl Meisler

“Elbows at Angles,” Infinity, 1978