All posts tagged: Susan Welchman

“Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” – Sneak Peek at the Book

“Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” – Sneak Peek at the Book

As we prepare to open the Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures exhibition this weekend, we wanted to let you know that we are publishing a handsome catalogue with UN to accompany the show.

In addition to lush photo spreads of Martha’s documentation over 6 decades, we have essays written by art critic, curator and author Carlo McCormick, UN Executive Director Jan Sauerwald, author and photographer Nika Kramer, author, curator, and Hip Hop historian Akim Walta, National Geographic chief photo editor Susan Welchman, curator of prints and photographs at the Museum of the City of New York Sean Corcoran, and the curators of this exhibition Jaime Rojo and Steven P. Harrington.

The hefty hardcover, a richly illustrated and modernly designed book, is timed for release simultaneously with the exhibition opening this Friday, October 2. In addition to the essays, we have 40 quotes about Martha from her peers, artists, authorities in photography, folklore, graffiti, and Hip Hop, along with long-time friends and her family. The cover of the book features a photograph rarely seen of graffiti writer Skeme train surfing in NYC taken by Martha in 1982. The introductory texts to each of the 10 sections are written by author and curator Christian Omodeo.

At 230 pages, the new book is published by Urban Nation Museum For Urban And Contemporary Art, Berlin, and Steven P. Harrington / Jaime Rojo ( The book will be available for sale at the museum’s gift shop and on view for you to peruse in the Martha Cooper Special Projects room.

Designed by Krimm Studios in Berlin, the project was greatly shepherded by Dr. Anne Schmedding, who edited with us along with Martha. The entire project was carefully managed by the brilliant Christiane Pietsch. Our sincere thanks to everyone who has worked studiously alongside us this year during many Covid-caused complications to produce a handsome tome we can all be proud of.

More about this project in a future posting.

Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures
Curated by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo

Opening weekend


Friday, October 2nd, 2020: 8 – 11 pm

Extended opening hours:

Saturday, October 3, 2020: 10 am – 10 pm

Sunday, October 4, 2020: 10 am – 8 pm

URBAN NATION Museum, Bülowstrasse 7, Berlin-Schöneberg

Livestream Opening Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures

Click HERE for more details about the exhibition.

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European Month Of Photography 2020 in Berlin Features “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” Exhibition at UN

European Month Of Photography 2020 in Berlin Features “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” Exhibition at UN

We’re proud to announce that our exhibition Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures will be featured during the prestigious European Month of Photography (EMOP) in Berlin this October for Urban Nation Museum’s very first photography-based program.

The European Month of Photography is a network of European photo festivals which began in 2004 when photography enthusiasts in Berlin, Paris and Vienna decided to put photographic art at the center of public attention for one month at least every two years. It is Germany’s largest photography festival.

Today EMOP it is a network of photography and visual arts institutions from seven European capitals: Berlin, Budapest, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Luxembourg, Paris, and Vienna with aims “to confront expertise in curatorial practice in photography and the intention to develop common projects, notably exhibitions, including exchange of information about the local photographers and artists concerned with photography. Founding members include the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, the Cultural Department of the City of Berlin (Museumspädagogischer Dienst Berlin headed by Thomas Friedrich) and the Department for Cultural Affairs of the City of Vienna (director Bernhard Denscher).

Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures combine photographs and personal artefacts in this retrospective that traces her life from her first camera in nursery school in 1946 to her reputation today as a world-renowned photographer. The exhibition covers Cooper’s wide range of subject matter. Many of her photographs have become iconic representations of a time, place, or culture and are distinguished by their frank human vitality, with an eye for preserving details and traditions of cultural significance.


We’re grateful for this recognition of the exhibition and look forward to participating in the EMOP 2020 this October and we hope you can join us at Urban Nation – if not in person then please join us ONLINE for our LIVESTREAM opening October 2 !  All are welcome!

Our special thanks to our entire team at Urban Nation including but not limited to Martha Cooper and Director Jan Sauerwald and
Melanie Achilles, Dr. Hans-Michael Brey, Carsten Cielobatzki, Sean Corcoran, Annette Dooman, Steve Fiedler, Seth Globepainter, Florian Groß, Sven Harke-Kajuth, Nancy Henze, Michelle Houston, Hendrik Jellema, René Kaestner, Kerstin Küppers, Nika Kramer, Barbara Krimm, Tobias Kunz, Jean-Paul Laue, Beatrice Lindhorst, Nicola Petek, Carlo McCormick, Selina Miles, Michelle Nimpsch, Christian Omodeo, Christiane Pietsch, Dennis Rodenhauser, Jens Rueberg, Dr. Anne Schmedding, Malte Schurau, Janika Seitz, Anna Piera di Silvestre, Skeme, Markus Terboven, Reinaldo Verde, Lennart Volber, Akim Walta, Samuel Walter, Rebecca Ward, and Susan Welchman.

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MARTHA: A Picture Story. Shots from the Premiere and Movie Review

MARTHA: A Picture Story. Shots from the Premiere and Movie Review

First things first – Full disclosure; we are featured in the movie and we are close friends with both the subject of the doc and the director and we first suggested to the director that she was the perfect candidate to make a film about Martha Cooper. Now that we have that out of the way here are a number of shots from the premiere and our review of the movie:

Martha Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Martha: A Picture Story had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this Thursday to an enthusiastic crowd that included big graffiti, Street Art, international press and film industry names, to see the highly anticipated documentary about the venerable photographer Martha Cooper by the Sydney director Selina Miles.

Selina Miles & Martha Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Included in the crowd were old-skool New Yorkers and a large international contingent of folks like Henry Chalfant, Doze Green, Skeme, Lee Quinones, Soten1, Carlos Mare 139, Terror 161, Kane, Dink (Baltimore), Okuda San Miguel (Spain), Faith47 (Los Angeles), Mantra (France), 1UP Crew (Germany), Nika Kramer (Germany), Roger Gastman, Lars Pederson (Denmark), Ian Cox (UK), Dean Moses… and many more. Those who didn’t attend this screening are having the opportunity to see it at three more sold-out evenings over the course of the festival.

Steven P. Harrington, Martha Cooper, and Jaime Rojo. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

The electricity was in the air as Director Miles and producer Daniel Joyce along with the just-arrived Australian members of the “Martha” crew looked for their seats in the Village East Cinema. After a brief introduction by Miles, who told the audience that the film had been a great pleasure to make, the curtain went up to reveal the mother of the superstar art twins Os Gemeos on the big screen. She is sitting at her kitchen table in São Paulo remarking how her boys used to draw on everything, including fruit, and how Cooper and Chalfant’s 1984 book “Subway Art” changed their lives forever. With their story as a backbone for the film, the theme of personal transformation is repeated in a hundred large and small ways for the next hour and twenty minutes.

Martha Cooper with Faith47. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

Spanning nearly all of Ms. Cooper’s 75 years, including a photo at age 3 with a camera in hand from her father Ben and uncle Harry’s Baltimore camera store, “Martha” successfully identifies the underlying driving forces, the unique personality and intellectual traits, and the milestones that propelled the photographer across scenes, subcultures, cities, and continents.

While Cooper is most often identified as a crucial documentarian of the 1970s and early 1980s graffiti-writing scene in New York, with “Subway Art” considered a global holy book of preservation that inspired thousands of artists worldwide, the film is judiciously clear that the photographer has had an anthropologists’ zeal for documenting much more over her multi-decade career.

Okuda San Miguel being interviewed by Susanne Lingemann for German TV ZDF. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

During and after the film you don’t know who you are most impressed with – the director, Martha, the communities touched, the history and stories that are preserved with such care and respect.

“Martha” captures important and character-molding biographical events  – like her work in the Peace Corps in Thailand, a subsequent motorcycle trip from there to the UK, her investigations of tattoo techniques in Tokyo, and her work as the first “girl” photographer at the New York Post. During the film’s nearly magical depiction of Cooper’s first meeting with New York graffiti king Dondi, those in the audience who knew this story broke out into spontaneous applause.

The film isn’t shy about the low points and struggles of Cooper, like her repeated attempts to work at National Geographic, the continuous rejections of “Subway Art” by publishers, her loss of money by its initial disappointing sales, and the high-sniffing artworld classism of a clueless gallerist who unsuccessfully tries to dash her hopes of being recognized for her truest and most human work.

Jaime Rojo being interviewed by Susanne Lingemann for German TV ZDF. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

You are gently led to take that journey with great interest as well, finally arriving at the mid-2000s European promotional tour for her book Hip Hop Files where Cooper suddenly realizes the impact that “Subway Art” has had on graffiti artists worldwide. Building on that enthusiastic response from new-found fans of her work she jumps back into street photography just as the Street Art scene is exploding.

Despite such a complex story Miles is able to coax out many significant truths in character development along with their infinite shadings, facts and nuances of the story.

Susanne Lingemann from German TV ZDF with Martha Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

With interviews, testimonials, unseen home footage from Cooper’s ex-husband and excerpts from soft-news TV stories of the 1980s, viewers may gain a greater understanding of the sacrifice, dogged determination, and her sixth sense for capturing images that the subject exhibits. Keeping a quick pace aided by a smart soundtrack, pertinent graphic elements, and sharp editing, Miles finds ingenious ways to educate us about the various milieu Cooper worked with and the vicissitudes she had to overcome.

The additional layers of visual language infuse so many aspects of the story – a collaging of words, music, precise editing, intuitive pairings and lyrical, witty storytelling that lands in a pitch-perfect way.

Featured subject in the film, former New York Post and National Geographic photo editor Susan Welchman displaying her ticket. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

In the end you realize Coopers’ underlying credo of taking pictures is about shedding light on people, their lives, their amazing ingenuity in the face of difficulty, their ability to rise above their environment as well as the artists techniques of art-making.

Careful observers will also be struck by the scenes of quiet moments that remain still for a few seconds to reveal deeper feeling – a remarkable glimpse of the filmmaker’s intuitive grasp of the life path and its trials. It’s those in-between places of luminosity that are revelatory, and the human gestures she lets the camera linger upon allow the viewer to write small essays inside their head, bearing witness.

Susan Welchman, Martha Cooper, and Kathryn Mikesell at the after-party. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)

With gratitude and respect to Director Miles and her whole film crew whom have worked thousands of hours over the past 2 and half years, we know that the graffiti/Street Art/photography scenes have been given a huge gift; almost as big a gift as Martha herself.

Martha Cooper stands up to take a cell phone shot of Director Selina Miles as she introduces the premiere film about Cooper. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)
Kathryn Mikesell, Martha Cooper and Jaime Rojo. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
DJ Jazzy Jay at the after-party performs in front a 1982 photo Ms. Cooper took of him with his audience. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Steven P. Harrington, Youri Mantra, Martha Cooper, and Jay Edlin (Terror 161) at the after-party. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
Martha…where are you going next? MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Selina Miles and producer Daniel Joyce with the film’s crew along with artists, friends featured in the film. Red carpet photo call. MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (photo © Nika Kramer)
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“Martha” the Movie: Selina Miles’ Most Ambitious Project To Date

“Martha” the Movie: Selina Miles’ Most Ambitious Project To Date

The Director Invites You to Participate in the New Documentary

The rising star film director who has captured and woven riveting narratives of artists and graffiti virtuosos like Melbourne’s Sofles and the ultimate train-jumping outlaws 1UP Crew from Berlin – verifiably raising their respective games and profiles in the process – Brisbane’s Selina Miles has been tackling a graffiti/Street Art juggernaut right before our eyes; a full scale movie-length documentary on famed New York photographer Martha Cooper.

Martha Cooper (photo © Selina Miles)

We knew that these two talented and powerful personalities would compliment each other stunningly and that’s why we encouraged them two years ago to do a doc. A short term one was the original plan. But the two hit it off so well and when you are looking at a five decade career like Ms. Cooper’s and you have the dogged determination to do her story justice, Ms. Miles tells us that even an hour and a half film feels like its just getting started.

Now “Martha” the movie is at a unique juncture in the project and YOU may be able to participate; Selina and the team are looking for any original footage you may want to show them – and it may be used in the documentary.

Martha Cooper. Subway Art (photo © Selina Miles)

We have an amazingly involved, interconnected, and brilliant audience of BSA readers across the time zones, so she’s asking you first. Please click this link and let Selina and Martha know if you might have something to show them.

Specifically right now the team  is looking for:

1.     Historical photos and video of artists interacting with “The Holy Book of Graffiti”, Subway Art, by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, and

2.     Modern day footage of Martha Cooper going to any and all lengths to get the shot.

Read more at “Martha” the Movie and please contact them ASAP.

In an exclusive interview director Selina Miles today shares with Martha Cooper fans some unseen images from making the movie. She also gives insights into what it has been like making the biggest movie ever produced about the famed photographer.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

Brooklyn Street Art: What gave you the idea to do a documentary about Marty?
Selina Miles: As with most of us interested in graffiti, I knew of Marty’s book Subway Art from a young age. We first met at ONO’U Tahiti Graffiti Festival in 2014, and I was immediately taken with her approachable, passionate and vibrant character. In 2015, I had been working on a series called “Portrait of an Artist,” an anthology of 10 minute documentaries profiling artists, and a good friend asked me “Who’s next?.” Martha was an obvious choice.

We both returned to Tahiti the following year for the same festival. Seated around a dinner table with a group of artists, I casually asked “When do you think you’ll be in New York next?” she replied “I’m not sure, why?” I ended up asking her right on the spot if I could make a film about her, in front of the whole group. It felt very much like awkwardly asking out a prom date. Luckily she said yes.

Martha Cooper at work at the Houston/Bowery Wall in NYC with Pichi & Avo. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Is it true that at the start of the project you were thinking of doing a short film?
Selina Miles: The following February, I had just finished directing my biggest TV commercial yet, and wanted to the use bigger-than-usual pay check to do an ambitious project. I booked myself a 2 week trip to New York, as well as a ticket for Marcus Autelli, an amazing cinematographer from London. Our mission was a 10 minute piece.

Like so many fans of Martha’s work, I discovered her through the graffiti subculture. I did my best to research before the trip. I scoured Youtube and Vimeo for videos and interviews with Marty, flicked through Subway Art, pored over Street Play, re-watched Style Wars and thought I had done a pretty good job.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

When I arrived in New York, Marty met me at her train station, and together we walked to her studio. She gave me a key and pointed me in the direction of her archives. Large folders lined the shelves. I still remember the first time reading those labels, hand-drawn in Marty’s signature authoritative, all-caps handwriting. “Windsurfing.” “Korea.” “Tunisia.” “Israel.” Each one full to the brim with boxes of Kodachrome mounted slides, stamped and dated.

The first person Martha suggested I interview was her good friend Susan, who flew down from her home in Maine to speak to me. It wasn’t until a few days before the interview that I learned that “Marty’s friend Susan” was actually Susan Welchman, photo editor of the New York Post and of National Geographic Magazine for 35 years. I began to learn of Martha’s incredible, rich photographic career, too often obscured behind the monumental popular reverence for her graffiti work.

Martha Cooper with her longtime friend Susan Welchman, the former photo editor at The New York Post and Senior Picture Editor at National Geographic  (photo © Selina Miles)

I realized with a combination of terror and excitement that I was facing much more than a 10 minute graffiti video. That this was the story of a photographer who had shaped entire generations of a worldwide subculture. A woman whose camera had witnessed historical events from the 1960s until now, whose story was deeply entangled with that of New York City, whose work had touched so many lives across boundaries of time and place and culture. And most importantly, a story that was relatively unknown, absolutely begging to be told, and that Martha had put her faith in me to tell that story.

It was then that I realized that 10 minutes wasn’t going to cut it.

Martha Cooper. Graffiti Writers. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Is there anything call “a typical day” when you are following Marty in her travels?
Selina Miles: There is never a boring moment when you’re with Martha. What she has can’t even be described as work ethic, because she doesn’t see photography as work. It is just who she is, and there is nothing else. She will go anywhere, any time, to any extreme to do the projects she wants to do.

That being said, there are certain consistencies in her days. Any time she is presented with a window of downtime of more than 3.5 seconds, she is playing Pokemon Go. When it comes to food, Marty frequents exactly 2 restaurants in New York, both 4 blocks or less from her apartment. In total she has about 4 dishes on rotation, supplemented on particularly busy days by Lunchables, ready-made snack packs of deli meats and Oreos.

Martha Cooper. Pokemon fun with Steven P. Harrington at Metro Diner in NYC. (photo © Selina Miles)

It is well documented that many successful entrepreneurs and geniuses keep rigid routines or wear the same clothes every day as a way to save precious cognitive resources for what they really love to do. Marty is no exception. My best tip for anyone lucky enough to share a lunch with her – you have about 30 seconds to decide on your order before her patience runs out.

Marty’s life is chaos wrapped in deeply ingrained habit, on a bed of compulsive, obsessive collecting and photo-taking. An ideal combination for a documentary subject.

Martha Cooper. SIM cards from her international travels. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: You have unprecedented access like no one ever before to the archives of 50 years. It must to have felt overwhelming sometimes.
Selina Miles: Most of my career has focused on making short films where the objective is creating something out of nothing. This project is the opposite. The real challenge is to distill 50 years, 17 published books, hundreds of travel destinations and more than an estimated half a million images into a singular, watchable 90 minutes. In this case, making a good film is as much about what you choose to leave out as what you include.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

My team and I have collected archive from every major medium, from Super 8 film, to VHS, to DV tapes, to our own 4K video. We have searched high and low over the 19 months working on this project, and there hasn’t been a week that we don’t discover some essential snippet of the story. Friends and colleagues of Marty have sent in material from South Africa, Prague and Germany. Her ex husband’s basement held over 6000 feet of Super 8 home movies, unseen since the ‘80s.

This constant digging and discovery is anxiety inducing, chasing leads that never end, having nightmares of dusty tapes sitting in a basement somewhere that could unlock all the answers if only I could find them. On the flip side, the elation that comes when you find that perfect piece makes it all worth it.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Were you able to speak to individuals whom you considered to be close to Martha personally or professionally?
Selina Miles: Out of every subject we approached, all but one agreed, the exception being a prominent anti-graffiti policymaker from New York City during the early ‘80s.

I interviewed in 6 cities and had material translated in 4 languages. I spoke to friends and family, peers, cultural commentators, graffiti writers. Each contributor was more varied and vibrant than the last. After the interview, when I would thank each contributor for their time, they would often respond with the same phrase, jumping out at me like a mantra – “Anything for Martha.” It became quite ridiculous how often I heard this exact phrase coming from everyone from kids at the skate park in Baltimore to curators at major New York museums. Access was not an issue on this project.

BSA: Can you share a special insight that you gained one day with her?
Selina Miles: I have been inspired in so many ways by this project, but I would say the most significant lessons I took away from the Marty Cooper approach to life would be to take risks, embrace failure, never grow up, and choose your own path in life. Although it takes place in very fantastical world full of weird and wonderful characters, Marty’s story is full of extremely universal, relatable human experiences, failures and triumphs. I hope that in watching the film, each viewer can find their own insights and take home lessons within her story.

Martha Cooper with the Brazilian twins Os Gemeos. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: You live In Australia and Martha lives in Manhattan. How do you make a feature film documentary when you have to travel such long distances?
Selina Miles: Firstly I am very fortunate to have built a freelance career that allows me to work when and where I choose. I can definitely encourage anybody thinking of making that leap to go for it. Not having a boss that you need to ask for time off makes it much easier. Secondly, being Australian you get really used to working weird time zones and traveling long distances. Modern aviation is a wonderful thing! Get on a plane, fall asleep for 14 hours, wake up and you’re in a different country! How cool is that!

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

Our world is so connected now, and filmmaking has become infinitely easier than it was for previous generations. Martha Cooper traveled the world photographing for National Geographic before the days of digital photography. She would have to physically purchase, carry, store, develop and print the hundreds of thousands of exposures of film required for one story.

She constantly battled against the physical mass and cost of that medium. This made photography or filmmaking accessible only to those with a formal education and money. We don’t have any of those issues anymore, anyone can walk into a store and purchase a $500 camera and a hard drive and start a career as a photographer or a documentary filmmaker. This project has given me a greater appreciation for how easy we have it now, and for the skill that was required to shoot on film.

A Subway Art fan clutching his copy close while looking at some of Martha Cooper’s more recent Street Art photography. (photo © Selina Miles)

BSA: Martha was one of the first documentors of the graffiti scene. What will the audience learn about how Martha first found out that she wanted to document the graffiti movement?
Selina Miles: It is my firm belief that I cannot make a film that will do anything for the documentation of early graffiti that wasn’t done by Style Wars in 1983, but I hope that the graffiti community leaves this film feeling well represented, and with greater context of how Martha Cooper became the legend we regard today.

BSA: How can people help you complete your film?
Selina Miles: Right now we are wrapping up our last month of post production, and searchin over the last few weeks we have been able to dig for new archival material. If anybody out there has footage of Marty, no matter what quality or how big or small, please send it to me! It might be just the bit that I am missing.

Marty’s story is such an international one, it’s so great to receive clips showing her at work in different locations around the world. Every little bit helps really bring to life the incredible bond that is shared within the graffiti and street art communities.

Martha Cooper. Archives. (photo © Selina Miles)

The slides of early tags were a selection for a chapter in Martha’s book “Hip Hop Files”.  “Make Your Mark” was a possible chapter heading she and the publisher eventually decided not to use. It comes from a 1982 anti-graffiti poster Koch put in the subways saying “Make your mark in society not on society.” It became a joke among graff writers, still remembered and quoted today.

Please click this link and let Selina and Martha know you might have something to show them.

Specifically right now the team  is looking for:

1.     Historical photos and video of artists interacting with “The Holy Book of Graffiti”, Subway Art, by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, and

2.     Modern day footage of Martha Cooper going to any and all lengths to get the shot.

Read more at ” ‘Martha’ the Movie’ ” and please contact them ASAP.


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