MARTHA: A PICTURE STORY

Martha: A Picture Story , winner of the 2019 Sydney Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, release date announced.

“1977, the Bronx was burning down. No one really wanted to write that graffiti was an interesting thing. But I don’t want to shoot something that’s done with permission. It’s an outlaw art. That’s what makes it thrilling,” Martha Cooper

Winner of the 2019 Sydney Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, Martha: A Picture Story is about New York photographer Martha Cooper, celebrated photographer and an unexpected icon of the street art movement.

Martha Cooper is an unexpected icon of the street art movement - a tiny, grey-haired figure running alongside crews of masked graffiti artists.
 
In the 1970’s, as the boroughs of New York City burned, she worked as a photographer for the New York Post, seeking images of creativity and play where others saw crime and poverty. As a result, she captured some of the first images of New York graffiti, at a time when the city had declared war on this new culture. Martha and her co-author Henry Chalfant compiled these images into the book Subway Art. However, the commercial failure of the book forced Martha to leave graffiti behind, moving on to document many other hidden cultures of New York.
 
20 years later Martha discovers she has become a legend of the graffiti world - a culture that has now exploded into a global movement. Subway Art became one of the most sold - and stolen - art books of all time, photocopied and shared by graffiti artists for decades.
 
At 75 years of age, Martha finds herself navigating a culture vastly changed. The small community born from struggle and adversity, has grown into a commercial industry fuelled by the rise of social media. Now every new piece of street art is immediately uploaded, and crowds line up for selfies in front of popular works. Martha struggles to find her place in this new world, driven by a passion for capturing the creativity that helps people rise above their environment.
 
Martha Cooper is one of the most adored and influential members of the street art world yet almost unknown outside of it, perhaps ‘the most iconic photographer you’ve never heard of’. Her book Subway Art is the ‘bible’ of graffiti and is widely considered to be one of the most stolen books of all time.
 
This is director Selina Miles debut feature, a bold expansion of her previous work in the art community which includes the viral street art video ‘Limitless’. The subjects in the film are amongst the largest names in the street art world, highly regarded or hugely popular, such as Shepard Fairey (Obama ‘Hope’ poster), OSGEMEOS and 1Up Crew. These artists and many more have painted tributes to Martha on city walls or as private works.

Umbrella has announced a November 28 cinema release date for Martha: A Picture Story . See the teaser trailer here. An exhibition of Martha’s photography Martha Cooper: Street Shots 1978 – 2019 is touring Australia coinciding with the film’s release.  
Featured Image: Martha Cooper in Alphabet City 1970s. Credit: Dan Brinzac.jpg