Now available on digital streaming platforms such as Apple, Amazon and Altavod, courtesy of Utopia, is the documentary film Martha: A Picture Story. The film will be available on Blu-ray May 2021.
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival back in 2019, and since then it has been screened at festivals around the world.
Martha: A Picture Story, is a documentary film about famed American photojournalist, Martha Cooper. To be honest, I have never heard of hear before, but after watching the trailer for the film, I was interested in learning more about her. In addition, I love taking photos, and sadly, due to COVID, I haven’t taken any photos with the exception of product review photos. I miss taking photos of the landscape, animals and unique finds.
Martha Cooper was the first female staff photographer for the New York Post, back in the 1970’s, but she is best knowing for non-newsworthy photos that she has taken over the past few decades – graffiti art.
Martha started out as a photographer as do most, snapping images here and there, and eventually becoming employed as a photographer. It wasn’t until she started to get involved in street art, that she truly found her calling.
Many people see graffiti (“street art”) as nothing more than mere vandalism. Others, like Cooper, see it as something more. It’s a form of art and a way for people to express themselves.
Often, people from low income neighborhoods are not afforded the opportunity to learn art, or express themselves in artwork. They need to find another outlet, and that is graffiti/street art.
If you have ever been in a major city (especially NYC) you see graffiti on just about everything, from subway cars to the sides of buildings. It’s just about every where.
Recently, my husband and I were heading down to the Bronx (a borough of NYC). On our way down, I was commenting on the graffiti on the side of the road. As my husband was driving, I was telling him how some of the lettering is really cool, and I’m impressed at how some of it is done. I’m not saying that I condone messing up the side of train cars or walls, but I do think some of it is very impressive.
In this documentary, we (the viewer) gets to learn more about this amazing photographer, and follower her along as she photographs street art, and interacts with the people who create it. Cooper is in her 70’s now, but her age does not stop her at all. In fact, some of the people she interacts with see her as a grandmother figure. She even gets to go places and see things that most people are not allowed to. That is because she has grained the trust and admiration of the street artists that she works with.
After viewing this documentary, I see graffiti in a whole new way. I can see how it’s a form of art, even though the canvases used to create it are not always the most appropriate. If there were more places and programs for these artists to flourish and create their art in more appropriate ways, there would be less graffiti on city streets.
Graffiti is not just something that happens in the United States either. Graffiti can be found in cities around the world.
I am impressed with Cooper’s photographs. She takes something that most people would see as “ugly,” and turns it into a beautiful, photograph. Her graffiti photographs have even been made into books.
This is an interesting portrait of a woman who is not afraid to follow her visions, even if it takes her into places that most of us would deem as scary or dangerous. It’s also about the people behind those “tags” you see on buildings and train cars. There is so much more to them than just a bored kid with a spray can of paint.
Below is the film’s trailer for your enjoyment.
* I received a free screener link in order to do this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.