Home » That time when I realised just how awesome Martha Cooper really is

That time when I realised just how awesome Martha Cooper really is

Now don’t get me wrong. I always had a sense of Martha’s all round awesomeness. But I had no real understanding of just how far and wide that awesomeness truly spanned.

I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to see Martha speak at a curated event; Chasing Visual Play, at Central Saint Martins earlier this month. She was one of three speakers, all completely brilliant in totally different ways.

Martha kept it simple. She simply told us about her life and some of what her journey had been so far. She told us of a young person who was utterly captivated by photography and observing the world around her from an early age. That instinctive curiosity saw her travel the world as a very young person; at one stage instead of buying a ticket home, choosing to buy a motorbike and ride solo across a large part of it. For a woman at that moment in time – that really is something quite remarkable.

The bravery with which she allowed her creativity to unfold, is something I am truly in awe of. As a young person, I allowed my creativity to be quashed and the doubts to creep in. She didn’t. She did it. And more power to her. She was captivated by the idea of play. By the idea of people creating opportunities for play in environments where play was not readily available. And so then she found the beginnings of graffiti. Almost at it’s very point of inception. Certainly at the moment in time when the movement was beginning.

She then became a hugely influential and important part of the graffiti (and now also street art) community at large, documenting work that, had it not been for her, none of us would have been lucky enough to see. Her other photography work from the 1970’s and 1980’s also just captures life in its most fabulous forms. Children creating and exploring. The birth of breakdancing and the incredible hip hop movement – one that shapes and forms my life to this day.

What do I so love about the movement? Being part of a group that swim against the tide. Being part of a group where creativity is respected and honoured. Gigs are a great example of this. Hip hop crowds are some of the most respectful and thoughtful crowds I’ve ever had the pleasure to dance amongst. Now clearly there are exceptions – but so many other genres of music have quite a different following of people, where respect for one another and the performer is often the thing that’s sadly lacking. Expression is everything, and this movement encapsulates that.

Also; I have never been embraced more readily and openly by strangers than I have been by the art community, and by that I mean anyone broadly related to art on the streets and in public spaces. I meet new people in this space all the time and the reception is almost always a wonderful one, one that is free from judgement and mistrust. A rare collection of people who are prepared to embrace one another ‘sold as seen’. There’s is such a richness and vibrance to this community, united by our love of visual stimulation.

Martha was not the only amazing human I was lucky enough to see at this event. There were two more;

Tom Oswald was kind enough to share some of the background and all0w us to view the trailer for his upcoming film VOLTS. A film looking at the history of graffiti on the London Underground. I will share the trailer and update this if I can find it. The camera work is absolutely stunning. It truly captures the beauty of the London Underground and the people who are looking to brighten it up. I excitedly await the full release.

And last but by no means least, was a lawyer named Yogain Chandarana, who recently fought and won a case against a graffiti magazine ‘Keep the Faith’, created, funded and developed by Marcus Barnes. Rather shockingly, Marcus was up on charges for ‘encouraging the commission of criminal damage’ and facing hefty jail time if convicted. The win was not just a win for Marcus, it was a win for free speech. There are thousands of similar magazines and books in the world, to prosecute someone for something like this is utterly insane. Read more about Marcus’ story from the man himself here. Without cases like this, even this very blog post could be accused of doing similar.

Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with us at the event and even more so to those who made it happen in the first place. It truly was an exceptional and inspirational experience.

Photo is from Martha’s current exhibition at StolenSpace, which runs until February 28th, 2016. Go and check it out!