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Selina Miles’ inspiring documentary tells the story of photographer Martha Cooper, whose beloved book Subway Art became known as the “graffiti bible.”
“A joyous look at a career devoted to witnessing everyday life.” –John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
Martha Cooper is an unexpected icon of the street-art movement — a tiny, grey-haired figure running alongside crews of masked graffiti artists.
In 1970s New York City, as the Bronx burned, Martha 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 fellow photographer 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 emerging cultures in New York. Twenty years later she discovered she had become a legend of the graffiti world, which has since 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 age 75, Martha is 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. This affirming documentary from director-cinematographer Selina Miles follows Martha’s struggle to find her place in this new world, driven by a passion for capturing the creativity that helps people rise above their environment.