Martha Cooper's passion for photography and anthropology has driven her to document the world around her in ways that are both visually stunning and culturally illuminating. I had the privilege of interviewing her at a shared workspace in midtown, where she shared stories from her decades-long career, which spans across the globe.
Cooper's journey began in the 1960s, where she was a part of the hippie culture and eventually found herself in the Peace Corps, teaching English in Thailand and Malawi, Africa. It was during this time that she discovered her love for photography and anthropology, which would lead her to document the emerging hip hop culture and graffiti in New York City.
We discussed Cooper's Subway Art book, which is now considered a classic in the graffiti art world, and the 50 publisher proposals she received before Henry Chalfant decided to publish it. She also spoke about her recent work, including her book on Yakuza tattoos, which took her to Japan, where she was able to capture the essence of the people and their culture.
Cooper's work has taken her across the globe, and she shared stories from her travels in Asia, Haiti, and Cuba, where she captured the lives of the people and the beauty of their cultures. She also talked about her experience as a freelance photographer and working for National Geographic and the New York Post.
As we discussed the gentrification of New York City, Cooper stressed the importance of giving back to the community, gaining trust, and being a part of the creative ecosystem. She also shared some advice for photographers, including being charming, not being too quick to take photos, and respecting people's privacy if they don't want their pictures taken.
Overall, it was a pleasure speaking with Cooper, and I was struck by her dedication to her craft and her passion for documenting the world around her. Her work continues to inspire and educate people around the world, and I can't wait to see what she captures next.