What the legendary Martha Cooper is probably best known for is the documentation of the Graffiti and Hip Hop Scene in New York in the late 70s and 80s. Until today, however, Martha leads a life full of travels and adventures and became an icon in the scene herself. On the first weekend of October, the large retrospective will open its doors at Open Nation Berlin to show a selection of Martha’s work from over six decades.
At the age of three the Maryland, Baltimore born photographer, got her first-ever camera. Her father and uncle owned a photography store and would take her on camera run to look for motives to take pictures of.
This approach towards photography sticks with Cooper until today. It’s the documentation and simple, literal preservation of time that Martha is focusing on in her work. Distorted camera angles, exaggerated lighting are no stylistic devices that she is making use of. With her work, Martha documents the Zeitgeist and spirit of a time and preserves it for the future. Therefore, she likes to be seen as a documentary photographer rather than an artist.
Martha’s adventurousness and the urge to explore and document are defining attributes in her work. A motorbike trip from Thailand to England after a two-year stay in Thailand prepared her for the life that was awaiting her in the Big Apple, where she moved in 1975.
In New York, Martha started as the first female staff photographer at the New York Post. She quickly got more invested in her own projects like documenting kids getting creative ‘when their parents weren’t’ watching and quickly got introduced to the New York Graffiti scene of which she then became an icon herself. ‘It’s the illegal aspect of it, kids willing to risk a lot for the sake of art’ that she finds fascinating until today. Only recently Martha spent one week with the Graffiti collective 1UP and documented their doings. The result is her book ‘1 week with 1 UP’.
The large retrospective at Open Nation Berlin does not only show photographs of six decades of street photography and her travels across the globe, but there are also personal objects of Martha on display, as well as sketchbooks that help create a better understanding of the photographer’s life and work.
The opening weekend of the exhibition will be from October 2nd until October 4th at URBAN NATION in Berlin. For more info click here.