All images courtesy of Stolen Space Gallery
Martha Cooper documented the birth of graffiti art in 70s and 80s NYC, and has followed its development ever since. She's the most celebrated street art photographer, and has documented artists and their work from the early days of kids tagging subway cars under cover of darkness, to today, when street art superstars jet around the world to paint permission walls. London's Stolen Space Gallery presents an appropriately-titled collection of her photography at their show Martha Cooper: Life Work.
Cooper has watched street art evolved over the years, and remains excited about developments in the field, particularly artists who are creating works to spur social change. "I worked with Mundano on his Pimp My Carroça project in Sao Paulo to raise awareness about the hard work the catadores (people who collect recyclable materials) are doing," Cooper tells The Creators Project. "The artists involved in these projects are doing amazing work with very little funding."
She's also excited about the interactions between street art and technology. Artist Katsu has been experimenting with creating art by attaching spray cans to drones, which Cooper says "could be revolutionary for illegal graffiti." She also a fan of Insa's GIF-based gifiti, which we at The Creators Project have covered extensively. "I’m always on the lookout for innovative ideas and techniques incorporated by artists on public walls," writes Cooper. "That’s not to say, however, that I don’t appreciate good old fashioned graffiti pieces."
Monica Norse curated the Stolen Space show; she first met Cooper at the Moscow Biennial of Street Art. "We took her to couple of graffiti jams and even yards," Norse tells The Creators Project, "and thats when I understood that it would be a pleasure to work with a person who not was only documenting a culture and influenced the graffiti scene by opening this tiny door to the underground art to many writers, but is still interested in some young crews and graffiti scenes around the world."
Cooper welcomes the changes that have turned street art from a hyper-local endeavor to a globalized form of creativity. "I don’t have a problem with known artists flying in to paint walls as long as they try to make their art fit with the aesthetics of the communities that they’re working in since those are the people who will live with the walls long after the visiting artists have left," Cooper writes. "I’m a fan of walls that are site specific in some way. Maybe cities don’t have “personal street art styles” but I wouldn’t say that “weakens” the art. Perhaps it makes artists freer to work in any style or technique they want."
To learn more about Martha Cooper: Life Work, click here.