The less heard, the less obvious.

Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures – A Life Long Retrospective

American Photographer Martha Cooper has documented the formerly underground culture of street art for close to four decades. Throughout her career she has been at the forefront of photographing graffiti, street art and various other New York subcultures.

This October will see the largest ever retrospective of her work at URBAN NATION museum in Berlin. MARTHA COOPER: TAKING PICTURES will present the photographer’s versatile vision of the world, with creativity found on every corner. The exhibition will open with the images from Subway Art, her landmark 1984 book with Henry Chalfant, now credited with jump-starting the worldwide urban art movement. Martha’s photographs documented the secret subculture of writers and the coded artworks they created illegally on thousands of New York City trains.

Lower East Side, Manhattan, NYC, 1978 photo ©Martha Cooper

Over time, many of her photographs have become iconic representations of a time, place or culture. The exhibition will offer a rare insight into Martha’s archives through previously unpublished photographs, drawings, journals, articles, letters and artifacts. As a lifelong and avid collector, her private trove of black books, stickers, Kodak film wallets and toys made in her childhood will also be on display. Emphasis will be placed on Martha’s extensive travels and the artistic friendships that she has fostered internationally.

“Martha’s style is to dive in and be fearless, immersing herself in the moment – and she’s been documenting what she finds around the world for six decades. That’s the attitude we took curating this exhibition, knowing that each element captured in her work is genuine and transient. It is our goal for visitors to be transformed by her unique eye for a historic preservation of the ordinary that is often exceptional – whether it is documenting the verboten process of making 1970s graffiti, capturing youths performing moves that were later called “breaking”, the inking processes of Japanese tattoo culture, or the ingenious games kids devised for play in New York’s abandoned neighbourhoods,” say Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo, curators of URBAN NATION.

180th Street platform, Bronx, NYC 1980 photo ©Martha Cooper

The exhibition opens on 2nd October 2020 at URBAN NATION Berlin. 

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