Martha Cooper: Capturing a Culture

© Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital

Martha Cooper is an American photojournalist from Baltimore. She began documenting graffiti art on the streets of New York in the 70’s while working at the New York Post. At the time, it was a highly controversial and for some considered illegal to glorify what was considered a form of vandalism. Cooper would take her photography out to the world and help in propelling it’s appreciation as a form of art.

© Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital
© Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital

In the early 80’s the hip hop film Wild Style was released further punting the art form into the mainstream media.

© Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital
© Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital

Cooper would follow trains to document the train bombings that graffiti gangs would target in the middle of the night. Rival gangs would battle by “writing” and challenging each other. This famous picture depicts trains under surveillance by local police officers.

Wild Style. © Martha Cooper
Hip Hop Files. © Martha Cooper

Cooper released the book Hip Hop Files, which documented her photography throughout the South Bronx, capturing the earliest appearances of hip hop culture.

Keith Haring. © Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital
Keith Haring. © Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital

Keith Haring’s work is instantly recognizable and highly revered in the street art scene in New York. This is one of Cooper’s most famous photos of Haring at work.

© Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital
© Martha Cooper. via dazeddigital

In the 80’s, she began following the likes of Dondi and Afrika Bambaataa, who were both pioneers of hip hop and graffiti culture.

Dondi. © Martha Cooper
Dondi. © Martha Cooper

Graffiti legend, Dondi, train bombing in the middle of the night. One of many photographs taken by Martha Cooper, who befriended him.

© Martha Cooper
© Martha Cooper

Martha Cooper is generally considered one of the foremost journalists and photographers of street art and hip hop culture.

© Martha Cooper
© Martha Cooper

Martha Cooper continued to capture the culture in its different art forms as it evolved through the ages… and she continues today.

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper