Friday 02.10.2020 – 04.10.2020

URBAN NATION, Bülowstraße 7, 10783 Berlin

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October 3, 2020 – August 1, 2021

With “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures” the Urban Nation Museum presents an extensive retrospective of Martha’s photography, spanning six decades. Displaying personal objects as well as photos, the exhibition traces Cooper’s life, from her first camera in 1946 to her current reputation as a renowned photographer.

In the late 1970s Martha began documenting graffiti and Hip Hop, a movement which had not yet acquired a name. While working as the first female staff photographer on the New York Post, she sensed something was happening that was worth capturing. Forty years later, it is evident that her photographs impressively succeeded in preserving the zeitgeist of a cultural movement.

“I’m always looking to take a picture that will be of interest in the future—a photograph that will become representative of its time.” – Martha Cooper


With “Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures”, the URBAN NATION Museum’s program is given a new focus under director Jan Sauerwald. Thanks to the expertise of the curators Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo (Brooklyn Street Art), and to the close collaboration with the photographer herself, an extraordinary exhibition has been created. This retrospective is the museum’s first photo and documentary exhibition.

Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures
Harlem, NYC 1982. © Martha Cooper


Over the years Martha has crossed paths with artists from around the world. One of the first was Keith Haring who, following the lead of graffiti writers, appropriated public space and was one of the first to kick off the present-day street art movement. Personalized drawings and photographs bear witness to these connections and can be seen in the exhibition. Visitors will get an exclusive look into Martha’s collection of sketchbooks (or blackbooks) and ephemera as well as her vast photo archives. Unique objects from her personal collection will help contextualize her work and its cultural-historical relevance.

Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures
Chris Stain with mural painted from Cooper photo, Coney Art Walls, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NYC 2017. © Martha Cooper

Martha’s straightforward presentation of subject matter belies her careful compositions and technical expertise. Her photographs capture essential human qualities without pretense.

I prefer being called a documentary photographer rather than an artist because I try to create a literal document. I don’t exaggerate or distort camera angles or lighting.” – Martha Cooper


Another focus of the exhibition is Martha Cooper’s extensive travels. Her curiosity and zest for adventure as well as her urge to research, record, and preserve are abundantly evident in her work. Although some of her trips like those to Senegal, Suriname or the Philippines were sometimes on assignment from major geography and travel magazines, many of the images taken were purely for her own interests. The photographs from these journeys from the 1960s to the present provide insights into the everyday lives of the people portrayed, from the very personal point of view of the photographer.

Martha Cooper: Taking Pictures
Women carrying clay pots, Madras, India 1965. © Martha Cooper

Artists worldwide have used Martha’s photos as the basis for inspiration and interpretation in their own work. The exhibition will have a special section of 35 original “remixes” created by artists based on her photographs.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog with essays by: Carlo McCormick, Steve P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo, Sean Corcoran, Susan Welchman, Akim Walta, Nika Kramer and Jan Sauerwald.

Due to the Corona regulations and the uncertainty of what further measures will have to be taken in the future to guarantee the health of our visitors and that of our employees, we have to be prepared for a “soft-opening” during the opening weekend of October 02 – 04, 2020.

A livestream of the first evening of the opening weekend with interviews and documentary material will be available from 8 pm on

Opening weekend


Friday, October 2nd, 2020: 8 – 11 pm

Extended opening hours:

Saturday, October 3, 2020: 10 am – 10 pm

Sunday, October 4, 2020: 10 am – 8 pm

URBAN NATION Museum, Bülowstrasse 7, Berlin-Schöneberg


We would like to point out that visitors who have had contact with someone suffering from COVID-19 in the last 14 days or who themselves suffer from an upper respiratory infection are not allowed to visit the museum or take part in events. Please note that the last admission is 30 minutes before closing time. Due to the ongoing situation, a visit to the museum will be limited for the time being. A maximum of 60 visitors may currently be in the museum at any one time.

Media partner:

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The exhibition is part of EMOP Berlin – European Month of Photography:


The art education project “Spiel Straße” with a 5th grade of the Otto-Wels-Grundschule Kreuzberg is supported by the Projektfonds Kulturelle Bildung Berlin of the district Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

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Berliner Projektfonds Kulturelle Bildung