Martha Cooper
In conversation with

Martha Cooper

New York City, USA

Hi Martha, please introduce yourself.

I live in Manhattan, NYC. I shoot worldwide. My dad and uncle had a camera store In Baltimore, Maryland “Cooper’s Camera Mart” for over 50 years. I had a camera when I was in nursery school when I was 3 years old in 1946, a Kodak Baby Brownie Special. My dad took me out on weekends on what he called “camera runs” to look for pictures. I never studied photography.

What does analog photography mean to you? What excites / fascinates you about it?

To me analog means using film. I shot film for over 60 years. I would never shoot film now. I much prefer digital photography which gives me a lot more control and is much better in low light.

In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of analogue photography?

I don’t know of any advantages of analog photography except, perhaps that learning how to shoot film makes you more aware of shutter speed, aperture, light balance etc. Film is slow and expensive. To change iso settings mid-roll, you have to roll out the film and carefully label it in order to roll it back in past the exposed frames. To balance the light temperature, you have to use different films or filters. You don’t know exactly what you’ve shot until you get the film back from the processor. If you made a mistake you wouldn’t know until it’s too late. Therefore I always bracketed a lot to make sure I got the correct exposure because slide film is unforgiving. Digital photography allows you to check while shooting. Slides were always very difficult to print. Now I can use Photoshop to edit my files the way I want.

Do you concentrate on a certain topic in your work? ​

I’m a documentary photographer. I specialize in shooting street art and graffiti but have shot a wide range of subjects over the 50+ years I’ve been a professional photographer.

Are there (analogue) photographers who have influenced your aesthetic and approach?

From 1977-80 I was a staff photographer at the New York Post. Working for a newspaper helped me refine techniques like handheld bounce flash. The experience enabled me to learn to size up situations quickly and figure out what subject matter to include in my photos in order to tell the story I wanted.

Do you have certain cameras and films that you prefer to work with?

I have used Nikon cameras since 1964.

Speaking of films: What does your workflow look like? ​

I don’t shoot film any more. I do scan old slides when I want to print them for exhibitions.

What advice would you have for other photographers who are reading this interview?

I don’t understand why anyone would want to shoot film today. I do not think there is any difference in the final result and digital is much more flexible.

If you publish your work on Instagram: curse or blessing?

Instagram gives me a way to publish the photos I want myself without having to beg editors for assignments.

Which 3 photo books can you recommend / should you definitely own?

Mine of course: “Subway Art”, “Hip Hop Files” and “Spray Nation” (all shot on film)

Thank you so much for your time!





Kodachrome 64, Fuji 100

Farbe & s/w


Selected works

© Martha Cooper
© Martha Cooper
© Martha Cooper
© Martha Cooper
© Martha Cooper