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"William Meyers: Civics" exhibition photographs

Call Number

PR 394


2002-2016, inclusive


Meyers, William, 1938-


37 photograph(s) in 5 flat boxes.

Language of Materials

English .


Photographs exhibited in October 2016 as "William Meyers: Civics" at Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York. Through sections labeled "Politics," "Demonstrations," "Press," and "Powwows," Meyers' images explore the ways in which individual citizens involve themselves in the procedures, rituals, symbols, and rhetoric of American democracy.

Biographical note

William Meyers was born in 1938 in Providence, Rhode Island. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. From 1962 to 1965, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he served as an Air Intelligence Officer in the United States Navy Reserve, and later joined the staff of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Manpower and Poverty. In the 1990s, after a successful career as a businessman and investor, he turned his attention to photography and pursued his studies at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. From 2002 to 2008, he regularly wrote photography reviews for The New York Sun, and in 2008 he began writing a regular column as well as feature articles on photography for The Wall Street Journal.

Meyers' focus is New York City, particularly as a lived city of neighborhoods and working people. In 2008, the New York Public Library acquired a portfolio of prints from "Outer Boroughs: New York Beyond Manhattan," and exhibited the prints at the library in 2015. That same year, Outer Boroughs was published as a book by Damiani. Richard Rivera wrote in the New York Journal of Books, "Meyers' vision of the city's open spaces is gritty, detailed, and often stark rather than romanticized . . . His portrayal of the people of New York is full of character, attitude, and generosity of spirit."

Meyers' work has been featured in the New York Times, The New York Sun, the Observer, and The Guardian, among other publications. He has lectured on photography and served on panels at ICP; the City University of New York; the State University of New York; Long Island University; and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. His photographs can be found in the collections of the New York Public Library, the New-York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Department of Classics, Harvard University, among other institutions.

William Meyers lives and works in New York.

[This information was supplied by Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York.]


The photographs in "William Meyers: Civics" are sorted in the four sections in which they were exhibited at Nailya Alexander Gallery in October 2016:

I. Politics

II. Demonstrations

III. Press

IV. Powwows

The prints were numbered consecutively, from 1 to 37, in the exhibit's object list; the archivist has copied these numbers (in pencil) on the back of each mat, and included them in the container list, below. All prints measure 11 x 14 inches, with the exception of numbers 10, 20, 23, and 28, each of which measures 16 x 20 inches.

Scope and Contents

"William Meyers: Civics," an exhibition originally shown at Nailya Alexander Gallery, October 5–29, 2016, explores the ways in which individual citizens involve themselves in the procedures, rituals, symbols, and rhetoric of American democracy. Taking as its epigraph a quote from an essay by David and Nathan Tucker—"Civic life is the life we live in dealing with problems of common concern" (Music and Civic Life in America, 2013)—the four-part exhibition includes images of the formal political process, from volunteers and voters to the politicians themselves, and also covers lectures, conferences, protests, demonstrations, charitable activities, and symbolic expressions of civic engagement. Part I, "Politics," addresses the formal processes for dealing with the issues of civic life. Part II, "Demonstrations," probes the manner in which groups make known their particular concerns. Part III, "Press," addresses how these concerns are reported to the public, and Part IV, "Powwows," is a study of the lectures, conferences, meetings, and social gatherings where problems and plans are discussed. Meyers' photographs track more than a decade of New York City's civic life, from the cramped newsroom of a neighborhood newspaper in Queens in 2002 to the events surrounding the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in 2010, and from the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in 2011 to a rally against the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. The project, Meyers writes, "is not so much about politicians or ideology as it is about the way individual citizens involve themselves in civic processes . . . Civics is about the organs of government, but also what people take upon themselves to do for the communities in which they live."

[This note is drawn from a press release issued by Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York.]

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers by appointment only.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections holdings through publication must be obtained from: Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 270. Fax: (212) 579-8794.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: "William Meyers: Civics" exhibition photographs, PR 394, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Richard S. Frary, 2016 (accession no. PPAC-2016-050).

Related Material at the New-York Historical Society

Along with one black-and-white, gelatin silver print by William Meyers of the Hunts Point Market, Bronx, taken on November 17, 1999 (Photographer File, PR-50, box 2), the New-York Historical Society holds a copy of his book, Outer Boroughs: New York Beyond Manhattan (call no. TR659.8 .M495 2014).

Collection processed by

Joseph Ditta

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:48:15 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: English

Processing Information

Archivist Joseph Ditta arranged and described this collection in May 2019.


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024