[Artist Spotlight] Martha Cooper

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“Actually I had only good experiences in the yards. I always felt reasonably safe with the writers who took me in and luckily we never had any problems. The yards at night are an eerie world with all kinds of spooky train sights and sounds. It was exciting to experience them and I am deeply grateful to those who gave me the chance.”

If you are not familiar with Martha Cooper, there is a high chance that you have seen one of her photos. Martha Cooper is an American photojournalist born in 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland. She is best known for her documentation of the New York graffiti scene of the 70s and 80s.

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She actually started by photographing kids playing in NYC. One day a young writer, HE3, asked, “Why don’t you take pictures of graffiti?” He showed his notebook full of HE3 sketches and a wall he had painted. Ever since that day Cooper was hooked on capturing graffiti. She spent several years photographing subway lines from rooftops of buildings in a crime ridden South Bronx as well as actually entering the yards and tunnels. She captured New York City’s state of urban decay which gave a better understanding of the artworks.

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Below are some of her famous photos. Enjoy!

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Martha Cooper recently joined Instagram, make sure you follow her @Marthacoopergram.

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