Martha Cooper - Photojournalist
Martha Cooper is a photojournalist specializing in art and anthropology. She is among the handful of photographers who methodically documented subway graffiti during the 1970s and 1980s. Her body of work is the most extensive and significant of its kind.
Cooper's hands-on approach to documenting the culture set her appart from other photographers. The majority of photographers focused specifically on documenting the paintings, isolating them from their environment. Cooper's approach was to photograph the paintings within their full context. She spent several years photographing elevated subway lines from empty lots the rooftops of buildings in a crime ridden South Bronx. She captured New York City's state of urban decay; providing a fuller visual understanding of the artwork and the times.
Cooper gained the confidence of some of the most respected artists in the community, such as DONDI, DURO, LADY PINK and others. This confidence afforded her opportunities to document the execution of many subway paintings. Assuming great risk Cooper accompanied writers to train yards and lay-ups capturing many significant moments in aerosol art history.
The landmark book Subway Art published in 1984 which Cooper co-authored with Henry Chalfant is frequently credited as the catalyst and foundation for aerosol art movements worldwide. In 1994 she co-authored R.I.P.: Memorial Wall Art with Joseph Sciorra. Her photos, covering a wide variety of topics in addition to graffiti have appeared in countless publications throughout the world including National Geographic. Recently she has contributed to Seattle Experience Music Project' s History of Hip Hop. Her work has been displayed at the Museum of the City of New York and The Whitney.
Interview with Martha Cooper Conducted by @149st February 21, 2001.
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