Jun 12, 2015

Martha Cooper

If Spike Lee is hip hop's director, Martha Cooper is its photographer.

Years ago, while riding a subway heading to Fulton Street in Brooklyn, I was distracted, missed my stop and resolved to get out at the Fulton Street stop. 

I learned I was in Manhattan and no where near the stop was accustomed. 
There was a bookstore near that subway stop and I ventured in.  Of all the books I saw, one in particular called to me.  It was filled with vintage photographs or early 1980s New York hip hop culture.   That era of hip hop history is of prime interest to me. 

Meeting Martha Cooper during the first Montreal Mural Festival was one of my summer's
sweetest highlights.

On that Saturday afternoon, I was sitting on St. Laurent Blvd and a local boombox enthusiast was heading north towards me.  I called out to him and we spoke.  He eventually showed me the back of the boombox in his hands.  From the moment I realized it was autographed by Martha Cooper, I freaked out and had three immediate thoughts. First was that Martha Cooper was in Montreal! Second was how the hell would I be able to find and meet her? Third was if there was any hope of getting my Hip Hop Files book signed that weekend.

I had not known what she looked like and was convinced I would scour the Main and introduce myself to any older woman photographer in hopes of landing the legendary lady.  That scared me somewhat because for all I knew if I was looking for her north, she could have been heading south and vice versa. The boombox enthusiast joined me as we roamed the road trying to find Martha Cooper until I broke from the crew for a quick bite to eat. 

A text message told me where I could find him and to hurry in doing so.  As I approached to the blaring beats from the box, they pointed me in the direction of a woman with a camera a few feet away.  I introduced myself and the story about how I came to own her book.  Getting it autographed was unfortunately not in my cards but I settled for smiles and photos with Cooper.

Even though I didn’t know she would be there, Martha Cooper was one of the reasons I was at Montreal Mural Festival.  Her photography has been influential on me.  Martha Cooper inspired me to take photography more seriously, especially where urban street arts are concerned.  I went from admiring photography from the likes of herself and Annie Leibovitz to creating my own.

My time at Montreal Mural Festival would not happen had it not been for the organizers, sponsors and Martha Cooper.  

Meeting Martha Cooper again and having her sign my Hip Hop Files book during the 2015 Montreal Mural Festival is easily one of my summer's sweetest highlights.

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