Martha: A Picture Story

Director: Selina Miles Run Time: 802 min. Rating: Not Rated

Martha Cooper is an unexpected icon of the street  art movement – a tiny, grey-haired figure running  alongside crews of masked graffiti artists. In the 1970’s, as the boroughs of New York City  burned, she worked as a photographer for the New  York Post, seeking images of creativity and play where  others saw crime and poverty. As a result, she captured  some of the first images of New York graffiti, at a time  when the city had declared war on this new culture.  Martha and her co-author Henry Chalfant compiled  these images into the book Subway Art. However, the  commercial failure of the book forced Martha to leave  graffiti behind, moving on to document many other  hidden cultures of New York. 

20 years later Martha discovers she has become a  legend of the graffiti world – a culture that has now  exploded into a global movement. Subway Art became  one of the most sold – and stolen – art books of all time,  photocopied and shared by graffiti artists for decades. At 75 years of age, Martha finds herself navigating a  culture vastly changed. The small community born from  struggle and adversity, has grown into a commercial  industry fuelled by the rise of social media. Now every  new piece of street art is immediately uploaded, and  crowds line up for selfies in front of popular works.  Martha struggles to find her place in this new world,  driven by a passion for capturing the creativity that  helps people rise above their environment.

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