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Corona Nights: Jan Meissner
December 1, 2023-January 5, 2024

Jan Meissner (b. 1944, Placedo Junction, Texas) is a photographer currently living and working in New York. Over the past two years, using a long range lens, she has worked at night from her Manhattan rooftop, capturing fragments of life inside of distant windows. 


A former writer, Meissner embraces a painterly approach to her photographs that she builds in the same way that she once built short stories. In her words:

"I made these photographs in the time of lockdown.


It was spring when my city closed its doors. The nights were fresh and cool and the roof was a place to go once there was no place left to go.


It was dark and it was quiet, silent except for sirens passing up and down the empty avenues.


But there were lights in windows, signs of life in buildings so far away that those who moved inside were little more than shadow.


One night I took my camera to the roof.


The next morning, there on the screen of my computer, what I saw were grainy fragments, the indistinct geometry of shapes enclosed by window frames, frames that drew a grid of yellow light across a dozen faraway facades.


As seasons passed, spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring again, the narrative of lockdown drew me to the roof once darkness fell.


Did I intrude? If what I took away was nothing more than remnants of those lives, raised hands, turned backs, the half truths of uncompleted gestures, did I trespass?


And then later, if I rearranged those fragments, altered details, used a fictive brush to shape the fictive landscape that my monitor became, did I trespass once again?


Yes or no, these are what remain, traces of an unfamiliar time I shared and did not share with shadows on a string of moonless moonlit calm and stormy nights."


SF/Arts: Mark Taylor

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