Hip hop culture emerged from an environment of extreme deprivation and decay in the South Bronx, New York City. The concept of pure invention-of creating something from nothing-was in full effect at the end of the 1970s as graffiti ("borrowed" spray ...
paint), breaking (cardboard as dance floor), and outdoor jams (electricity source: the base of street lights) captured the attention of urban youth, coalescing into new forms of artistic expression. Fortunately, photographer Martha Cooper was at the right place at the right time to document the people that created the music, dance, and art that became known worldwide. Cooper followed people who would one day become icons: the Rock Steady Crew, Fab 5 Freddy, DURO and DONDI, LADY PINK, and Afrika Bambaataa, to name a few. Now, Martha Cooper has the reputation of being the first and foremost photographer of hip hop culture in New York City. While the publication of Cooper's photographs in the early 80s disseminated the culture both at home and abroad, her new book, Hip Hop Files: Photographs 1979-1984, makes a significant part of her extensive and unique archive accessible for the first time. From 1999 to 2003, the German hip hop head and music publisher Akim Walta tracked down the subjects in Cooper's legendary shots and conducted numerous interviews obtaining insightful quotes and statements to accompany and add voices to the photographs. Other members of the early hip hop scene, including ZEPHYR, Charlie Ahearn, FABEL, and Patti Astor, contribute text and essays, adding fresh data to the growing body of hip hop history. "Marty's pictures capture the exact moment when hip hop traveled from the Bronx uptown, downtown to the Manhattan nightclub and gallery scene. The photos and movies were suddenly in the works and (through her pictures) "discovered" by the press and then seen by the rest of the world." (Charlie Ahearn)