The Selina Miles video documentary on graffiti icon, Martha Cooper

Who would have known that in the 1970s, a little-known photographer by the name of Martha Cooper would become an international graffiti icon? Becoming a worldwide legend not for the act of graffiti, rather for the documentation of it. While working for the New York Post, with the Bronx, burning down in the background, riddled with crime and poverty, Cooper’s eye instead focused on signs of creativity and playfulness. It was at precisely this moment in time that the New York subway graffiti movement gained momentum in what is now seen its formative years. All passionately caught through the lens of Cooper’s camera which was pointed at the painted passing trains and the artists who painted them on the regular. The later release of the book Subway Art (in collaboration with fellow photographer and graffiti icon Henry Chalfant), would become almost like a bible for the contemporary graffiti movement. Not that Cooper was aware of this as the initial poor sales of the book led her to explore other visual cultural attributes of the city. Always focussing on people who managed to rise above their environment. It was 20 years later that she finally discovered that she had become a graffiti legend and that Subway Art had become one of the most sold (and stolen) art books of all time.

In the 2019 released film “Martha: A picture story” made by another female iconic creator behind the film camera lens; Selina Miles, homage was paid to the inspiration that Martha Cooper has created through her artwork. Connecting the dots of her path from its beginnings as a naive young photographer, to one of the most referenced and celebrated Graffiti, Street Art, and Urban Art photographers in the world, Miles manages to sink below the skin of this robust character that is still as active in her seventies, as she was in her twenties. The list of achievements too long to note, Cooper herself denounces seeing herself as any sort of icon. In a recent screening on the German-French TV station ARTE, all those that never managed to see the film in cinemas could finally indulge their thirst for knowledge on the phenomenon that is Martha Cooper. The version of the film shown by ARTE was shorter compared to its original cinema format. Also available on APPLE TV, if you can’t access the short or full versions, check the trailer here for a small window into this amazing documentary.  

For the team at Montana-Cans, the images of Martha Cooper are ingrained in the rich history and traditions of the graffiti movement of which we live by, work in, and from which we came. Her contribution to graffiti is as inspiring now, as it was then. For this reason, we were driven to feature her work in the collaboration of the MARTHA COOPER x Limited Edition Iconic Series cans back in 2016. Solidifying her importance to graffiti culture now, and for generations to come.

Selina Miles video documentary Martha Cooper

Limited Edition Run of MontanaCans X Martha Cooper Iconic Series – SOLD OUT 

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