All posts tagged: Sowebo

“I Art Joburg” with Monica Campana in South Africa

Today we welcome Monica Compana to BSA to share with you her experiences during a recent Street Art/community program in Johannesburg, South Africa that took place in September. As one of the principal originators of Atlanta’s Living Walls festival, Campana brings a wizened eye to the events as they unfolded, and presents here what she observed and experienced. Special thanks to Martha Cooper, who shares with BSA images that display her personal vision of Joburg and some layouts from her new zine “Soweto/Sowebo”.

Considered one of the wealthiest cities in Africa, Johannesburg is not only rich in gold and diamonds, but also rich in arts and culture. In the month of September, Johannesburg hosted the largest mural project in the city and possibly even the continent.

I Art Joburg brought the artists Espo, ROA, Cameron Platter, Falko, Remed and graffiti photographer legend Martha Cooper to South Africa to create art in the streets, start a dialogue about street art in the city and to document a month where artists worked together alongside a commercial production team and community members to bring color to Joburg and Soweto.

ROA (photo © Martha Cooper)

“Color creates energy, energy creates inspiration and inspiration creates change. It is our responsibility to inspire ourselves to inspire others to inspire the change. Art is the remedy for this,” says Ricky Lee Gordon, organizer and curator of I Art Joburg.

Gordon’s carefully selected list of renowned street artists not only managed to put the festival amongst one of the best ones of the year, but also it created a chemistry between artists and community. With 6 murals installed around the Maboneng Precinct it hosted a night of lectures and the screening of Espo’s “Love Letters to You” documentary. The precinct is also referred to as “a place of light”, as it is a hub for young creatives and artists, and it also hosted a gallery exhibit by the participating artists.

ROA (photo © Monica Campana

To inspire kids from a local school, organizers created a workshop and a mural with kids in Soweto, a name synonymous in the northern hemisphere with the historic anti-apartheid black resistance movement that inspired so many artists in the 70s-80s around the world. The name Soweto has an auditory similarity to the neighborhood of Sowebo in Baltimore, which photographer Martha Cooper has been documenting as a personal passion for nearly a decade.

Already in Joburg to document all of the murals and exhibit her own work, she took the experience and project to a whole new level with the development of her zine titled: “Soweto/Sowebo.” Martha owns a house in South West Baltimore, also known as Sowebo, an area so affected by urban decay that it is often compared to Soweto in South Africa. Needless to say, when she  arrived in Soweto she immediately saw the similarities and she decided to create a zine honoring the richness of both cultures.  It was fascinating to see through her work how these two places, so far away from each other geographically in two completely different continents, could pass as one and the same.

ROA (photo © Martha Cooper)

Soweto/ Sowebo was not the only example of this wonderful dialogue. Each artist tried to leave something to the city of Joburg that would not only last for a long time visually, but something that could continue to spark some kind of dialogue. During my stay in Joburg I was able to spend quite a bit of time with ROA and Martha Cooper.  It was amazing to see how their easily  they interacted with the people on the streets of the city and even though they had been there for only about a week by the time that I arrived, Martha and ROA had already made dear friends in the neighborhood.

ROA and Falko (photo © Martha Cooper)

On the subject of friends we made: Bongani Mathebula, my Joburg tour guide, is the one that stole my heart. Seeing the city through the eyes of a local 25 year old artist was very inspirational. He told me that projects like I Art Joburg are what the city of Johannesburg needs – an outsider’s view and conversation starter to inspire the local community.

“Artists are like heroes. Art is crazy, people need to let that happen. More art, more crazy communication and growth,” says Bongani.

I hope to see more mural festivals happen in Joburg and Soweto. I know the artists who were part of the project were left wanting more. So, who knows? Maybe this really is just the start to a much bigger conversation in Joburg! Fingers crossed!

Remed (photo © Monica Campana)

Falko (photo © Monica Campana)

Espo (photo © Martha Cooper)

Espo (photo © Martha Cooper)

Espo (photo © Martha Cooper)

Espo (photo © Martha Cooper)

Martha Cooper’s “Soweto/Sowebo Zine” (photo © Martha Cooper)

Martha Cooper’s “Soweto/Sowebo Zine” (photo © Martha Cooper)

Martha Cooper’s “Soweto/Sowebo Zine” (photo © Martha Cooper)



Please note: All content including images and text are ©, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!



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Street Art in Historic SOWEBO (South West Baltimore)

Unsanctioned Baltimore (Part 3 of 3)

The SOWEBO section of Baltimore has been a hub of activity in recent months as Street Artists have been passing through town, often with an introduction or two from Martha Cooper to the people who live here. It’s not uncommon for an artist to do a portrait of a resident, as in the case of Troy Lovegates (AKA Other), below, or even of their horses, as in the case of LNY, Jetsonorama, and Jaz who created cool pieces that reference the few horse farms that are nestled into the historic blocks in this neighborhood. Traditional to basic transportation, they are known locally as the animals that pull carts of produce for the sellers, or “arabs”.

Troy Lovegates (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Labrona does a little jig with Other (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Jaz created this mirror image of the photo portrait by Jetsonorama (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Stikman had some Mondrian leanings when here. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are tribute worthy subjects here. Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Street Artist LNY combines metaphor and symbolism in these two pieces that feel very site-specific and germane to the the resilience of the neighborhood and the stories you will hear. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

LNY (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Gaia pasted this piece he made from a Martha Cooper photo. The wheat paste has been seen in a number of cities. Notice the little Stikman working his way into the scene with aplomb. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


See Part 1 of Unsanctioned Baltimore HERE: Pixel Pancho and 2501

Part 2 Unsanctioned Baltimore: Midtown Back Alleys



Please note: All content including images and text are ©, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!


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Martha Cooper, Photographer of Art on the Streets for Six Decades

Martha Cooper landed in LA yesterday and will spend the next week installing her photos and their remixed new versions beside them, even flanking hers like stereo speakers. Since the press release has gone out we thought we’d share with you the bio written by Steven P. Harrington and the promo photo by Jaime Rojo which will appear in a special issue of The Art Street Journal dedicated entirely to her to come out this week.


Martha and Pablo at home, with a portrait of her sitting on a train car with camera in hand painted by Os Gemeos overlooking the scene. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Martha Cooper, Photographer of Art on the Streets for Six Decades

Written by Steven P. Harrington, this article is featured in The Art Street Journal vol ii – issue v.

The daughter of a Baltimore camera store owner, Martha Cooper’s romance with photography began in the 1940s when bobby-soxers and penny loafers were the sign of edgy youth culture. Her dad, an amateur photographer himself, gave his small girl a camera and together they hit the streets in search of adventure. “Yeah, my father used to take me out and we would take pictures. That’s what I thought photography was…we were just looking for pictures,” she recalls. Six decades later, Cooper is still looking for pictures; meanwhile, many works from her archive are cited as pivotal recordings of the birth of hip-hop culture and its plastic art form, graffiti.

During the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, Cooper earned a Bachelors of Art degree in Iowa, taught English for the Peace Corps in Thailand and rode a motorcycle from Bangkok to obtain a graduate degree at Oxford. As a freelancer and staff photographer in Japan, Maryland and Rhode Island in the early 1970s she moved to the media and art center of New York City to catch bigger fish. Landing a job on the staff of The New York Post in 1977, she discovered that the resistant and competitive boys club of photographers there were reluctant to countenance this scrappy young woman shooting hard news stories and Studio 54 celebrities.

Hungry for discovery, Cooper would spend her time to and from assignments in bombed-out neighborhoods, where she took pictures of kids entertaining themselves with games they devised on the street, often with the humblest of materials. It was during one of those trips that she stumbled on graffiti and the members of its community. She met a young boy who suggested she photograph the work she was seeing, then showed her a stylized drawing of his name, or piece, in his notebook.

Then he asked her if she wanted to meet “The King”.

Following this lead to Brooklyn, Cooper met Dondi, the citywide-famous graffiti writer who kept a published photo of hers in his black book because its background contained one of his graffiti throw-ups. Cooper quickly realized that she had stumbled into a lively street culture and became an avid student of the teen writers she befriended. By the time she took her last news picture for the New York Post in 1980, her primary desire was to capture as many pieces, tags, and trains as she possibly could find. Today, she remarks on her near-obsessive devotion to documenting New York’s graffiti: waking before dawn to hit the street, waiting five hours for a freshly painted #2 train to pass with the sun at her back and countless secret adventures with vandals in train yards, evading transit police in order to pursue a shot.

Joining efforts with fellow graffiti photographer, Henry Chalfant, Cooper proposed putting together a book of their documentation. The pair endured multiple rejections from publishers while lugging around a big “dummy” book with their pictures glued to the pages. Eventually, however, they landed a deal and Subway Art was published in 1984. Although not an immediate success, it came to sell half a million copies and established itself as a holy book for fans, aspiring artists and art historians worldwide.

By the time the 25th anniversary edition was published in 2009, generations of graffiti and street artists had been influenced by it and the hip-hop culture Cooper and Chalfant had captured had gone global.

In the intervening years, Martha Cooper never stopped shooting. Her love of serendipity on the street and the exploration of cultures led her to publish thousands of photos in books such as R.I.P.: Memorial Wall Art, Hip Hop Files 1979-1984, We B*Girlz, Street Play, New York State of Mind, Tag Town, Going Postal, and Name Tagging. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and published in numerous magazines including National Geographic, Natural History, and Vibe. While she is still shooting graffiti, street art and the occasional break dance competition today, Cooper’s current project involves documenting people and events in Sowebo, a drug-riddled neighborhood in her birthplace of Baltimore.


Steven P. Harrington is editor-in-chief of and co-author (with Jaime Rojo) of Brooklyn Street Art and Street Art New York, both by Prestel Publishing. He and Jaime Rojo are also contributing writers on street art for The Huffington Post.



Photographs by Martha Cooper

Martha Cooper ; Remix


Original remixes of these photographs in a range of media by Aeon, John Ahearn, Aiko, Bio, Nicer & B-Gee, Blade, Blanco, Mark Bode, Burning Candy, Victor Castillo, Cey, Cekis, Claw, Cosbe, Crash, Dabs & Myla, Anton van Dalen, Daze, Dearraindrop, Jane Dickson, Dr. Revolt, Shepard Fairey, Faust, Flying Fortress, Freedom, Fumakaka, Futura, Gaia, Grotesk, Logan Hicks, How & Nosm, LA II, Lady Pink, Anthony Lister, The London Police, Mare 139, Barry McGee, Nazza Stencil, Nunca, José Parlá, Quik, Lee Quinones, Kenny Scharf, Sharp, Skewville, Chris Stain, Subway Art History, Swoon, T-Kid, Terror161 and more.

Carmichael Gallery is pleased to announce Martha Cooper: Remix, an expansive group show featuring highlights from Martha Cooper’s photographic archive and works by over 50 artists who have created their own unique interpretations of her iconic, historically significant imagery. There will be an opening reception for the exhibition on Saturday, April 9 from 6 to 8pm with Martha Cooper and several of the participating artists in attendance. The exhibition will run through May 7, 2011.

Click on the link below to read BSA interview with Martha Cooper:

Carmichael Gallery

5795 Washington Blvd

Culver City, CA 90232

April 9 – May 7, 2011

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 9, 6-8pm



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