Legendary Graffiti Photographer Martha Cooper Takes on POW! WOW! Hawaii

The photographer who captured 70s graffiti turns her lens to contemporary street artists.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Martha Cooper made a name for herself in the photography and graffiti worlds when she published Subway Art in 1984, a seminal photo book that captured the New York City graffiti scene from 1970 to 1980. For the last 35 years, Cooper has continued to document urban subcultures, including hip-hop and street art. Despite her success and the iconic status of her photographs, in the video above, Cooper admits that she missed a lot during the '70s and has since made a conscious decision to once again photograph street art.

The video above shows Cooper photographing murals at POW! WOW! Hawaii, an annual street art festival that takes place in Kakaʻako, Honolulu, Hawaii each winter. Cooper speaks about how outdoor spaces offer alternative canvases for artists that have trouble breaking into the tough and "uncomfortable" gallery world. Even though she trains her camera on the vibrant works of art, she also notes that she photographs people, not just graffiti. That human element is what has made Cooper's photographs so timeless year after year.

POW! WOW! Hawaii 2015 begins next month when street artists will descend on the tropical landscape for a week of painting. The festival kicks off on Feb. 7 and runs until Feb. 17.

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