I’m interested in filming art as it emerges. Martha Cooper

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DONDI, Painting at the depot on the New Lotts line. 1980

On August 5, the Beat Film Festival will host the Russian premiere of the documentary Martha: A Picture Story, dedicated to Martha Cooper, the legendary documentary photographer of the world graffiti scene. The film follows her rise as a photographer and reveals the dramatic relationship between American society and members of the graffiti subculture that took root in New York in the early 70s.

Martha Cooper works in the genre of live documentary. She does not only capture objects and situations but also includes the subtext of the environment in the frame.

Martha Cooper cannot be called an academic photographer. She is inherently more extreme. Her biography is very rich:

  • a volunteer in the Peace Corps;
  • teaching English in Thailand;
  • a long motorcycle trip – from Bangkok to Oxford;
  • and even an ethnography diploma.

Her photographs are dedicated to fine arts and anthropology. She is the most famous photographer covering the New York graffiti scene of the 70s and 80s. She has publications in National Geographic, Natural History, Audubon, and Art News.

Martha Cooper is one of the few who captured the New York crowd of street art artists and the beginning of the hip-hop movement in the 70s and 80s. She was sincerely admired by the drawings on the walls.

I'm interested in filming art as it emerges. Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper. Fresh Wild Style graffiti in Riverside Park, Manhattan, New York, 1983

The name of the photographer Martha Cooper is not well known to the general public, but she is a legend for street culture. Her album Subway Art about the birth of graffiti in New York is called The Bible of Street Art. It is at the top of the books most frequently stolen from the shops, and, thanks to the efforts of fans, spread around the world, from Brazil to Japan, in photocopies. Subway Art also saved the first New York graffiti for history. Only a little of what was filmed for its pages survived in the struggle of the city authorities against vandalism.

I'm interested in filming art as it emerges. Martha Cooper
Dondi, Children of the Grave Part 3, 1980
I'm interested in filming art as it emerges. Martha Cooper
Dondi, Drawing Children of the Grave Part 3, 1980

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