American photographer, Martha Cooper (b. 1942), first began photographing graffiti and urban youth in New York City in the late 1970s. Now one of the best known documentary photographers, Cooper continues to explore the creativity expressed by young people around the world. In 1978 and ’79, on vacation from her staff photographer’s job at the New York Post, Cooper traveled to Haiti and was intrigued by kids who manufactured their own toys from trash. She photographed similar scenes back in New York, capturing the ingenuity of youngsters in often difficult circumstances.
Martha Cooper grew up surrounded by cameras, her father and uncle were camera store owners. From an early age she accompanied her father on outings with the Baltimore Camera Club. She took her first photographs at age 3. In the decades since, Cooper’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide including Museum of the City of New York, Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Pera Museum (Istanbul), Hellerau European Center for the Arts (Dresden), Urbannation (Berlin), Trafo Galerie (Prague), Pallazo Incontro (Rome), Stolen Space Gallery (London), and Fullersta Gard (Stockholm). Her work was featured in the exhibition “Bridges of Graffiti” at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Numerous books of her work have been published including Subway Art (1984), Hip Hop Files (2004), We B* Girlz (2005), Street Play (2006), New York State of Mind (2007), Tag Town (2007), Going Postal (2009) and Tokyo Tattoo 1970 (2012). Her first book Subway Art (with Henry Chalfant), has been reprinted multiple times and is affectionately called the “bible” by graffiti artists. In the 33 years it has been in print, it has consistently outsold nearly every other art book on the market. In 2016, she was invited to speak at TEDxVienna, on the theme Out There.