Real Recognize Real: Flint on Martha Cooper
The 12oz team has recently been working closely with Flint on a collaboration that’ll be dropping in the very near future. While getting up our previous post about Martha Cooper documenting the ‘Queen Bee’ wall painted in Miami during Art Basel, it made us think of this great biographical post Flint did on Cooper. He posted a grip of great photos, including one of her taking a the group shot of the Few & Far gang posing in front of their mural (which may look familiar.) Here’s what he had to say:
“Martha Cooper is a photojournalist specializing in Art and Anthropology. She is among the handful of photographers who methodically documented subway graffiti during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Her body of work is the most extensive and significant of it’s kind. Cooper’s hand on approach to documenting the culture set her apart 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 and rooftops of buildings in the crime ridden South Bronx. She captured New York City’s state of urban decay; Providing a fuller understanding of the artwork of the times.
“Born in the 1940s in Baltimore, Maryland where she picked up photography at the age of three. She graduated from high school at the age of 16, earned an art degree at age 19 from Grinnell College. She taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, journeyed by motorcycle from Bangkok to London and received an ethnology diploma from Oxford. She worked as a staff photographer for the New York Post during the 1970s.
“She is perhaps best known for documenting the New York graffiti scene of the 1970s and ’80s. Her most known personal work began while working at the New York Post. On her return home from the Post she began taking photos of children in her New York City neighborhood. One day she met a young kid named Edwin who helped expose her to some of the graffiti around her neighborhood. Edwin helped to explain to her that Graffiti is an art form and that each artist was actually writing his/her nickname. Edwin then proceeded to tell of the Graffiti King and asked if she would like to meet him. This is when Martha met Dondi, the first one who allowed her to accompany him; while Dondi was tagging she would take photos of his art. In the 1980s she put together a book of photos illustrating the Graffiti subculture called Subway Art.
“She has degrees in art and anthropology. She was a photography intern at National Geographic Magazine in the 1960s, and worked as a staff photographer at the New York Post in the 1970s. Her photographs have appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian and Natural History magazines as well as several dozen books and journals. She is the Director of Photography at City Lore, the New York Center for Urban Folk Culture. Cooper lives in Manhattan but is working on a photo project in Sowebo, a Southwest Baltimore neighborhood. In the 1980s Martha worked briefly in Belize photographing the people and archaeological remains of the Mayan culture.
“It was with great pleasure that I photographed along side Martha during Art Basel Week and especially in Wynwood Miami. We were there and it was like GRAFFITI WORLD! So much was happening and the paintings were all so beautiful, street art has really evolved.”