Vandalism and Vandalistic Photography in the Work of Martha Cooper and Jürgen Große

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Google defines the act of vandalism as an “action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.” Photography and its influencers have changed the idea of vandalistic photography over many years. This idea is vividly seen through, such artists as Martha Cooper, Jürgen Große, and Alex Faso. These three creative figures have shaped the realm of vandalism and exposed the true culture behind these acts. Although in different countries and time periods, using vastly different styles and techniques, all these artists portray and highlight the wonders and creative imagination that lurks under the overpowering unpleasantries associated with its public appearance. We see these photographers use this motif of vandalism as a way to diversify the art forms available and introduce new, imaginative ways of producing imagery to influence a change in the mindset of the public, telling a story, that links to the physical vandalistic artwork portrayed within the pictures. This can be shown through the emotion of a person or the environments look with the inclusion of such imagery added to its bounds. I chose my artist models due to their time differences and how their styles have changed from classic frontal shots to more artsy and contemporary photographic styles. This helps tell the story of vandalism as an art form and its progression over time.

Martha Cooper is an American photojournalist born in Maryland in 1943. “When I was three years old, I held a camera in my hands for the first time and that was the moment when my passion for photography was born.” Martha Cooper Is world-renowned for her work on photographing vandalism and street art before it was recognized as an art form. One of her most famous subjects is the street artist DONDI who is infamous in New York, and with the help of Cooper, all around the world. Throughout her career Coopers' work has been exhibited worldwide, from her home of New York, at the city’s museum, to art centers and museums across the world, including Rome, Berlin, and London. Her first book, Subway Art, has been reprinted many times and has been amply named, by graffiti artists worldwide “the Bible”.

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One of Cooper's most famous works is a portrait of infamous street artist DONDI Tagging a wall of a train. This image's focal point is on the artist himself, but also due to a wide aperture, this has captured quite a large field of view in the artist in this but continues to keep the black framing blurred. This image captures a large range and variety The photograph was taken on Film in 1980 but was reprinted in 2017, as an archival pigment print, as a homage to Cooper’s earlier works for a recent exhibition This style of printing uses a much higher level of detail and resolutive ability, hence allowing all the details of this influential and passionate photo to be enjoyed in this 21st-century world, where the work of film cameras has merely vanished. The black physical framing in this capture presents the idea and tone of a somewhat hidden and discreet pathway through which vandalism hides in the shadows, this helps us contrast the hidden identity of vandalism, from the perspective of us through the camera toward what seems to be a bright and colorful world in which the artist is striving to represent in his work. The action represented by the motion blur present in his legs shows us how, in the 1980s, as street art was illegal, one must have been quick in order to remain undetected physically but still achieve a mark of his creative passion. This also hints at the dedication to the craft these street artists must undergo to be able to ‘tag’ as such speed, showing the hours of practice and effort, go into designing and executing such extravagant designs.

In this shot we are introduced to the face behind the elusive graffiti of DONDI, this provides an entrance into the realm of street art and the idea that it shouldn't have to force people to cover themselves in fear and live within the moment and the divine passion in which street art provides for them. Martha Cooper has been influential in the graffiti scene and has helped bring awareness into the idea of vandalism also becoming an outlet of passion and love of creativeness and expressing this such love with others. With help from Henry Chalfant, they released “Subway Art”, an inauguration into her success as a photographer, this book was, in essence, the standard for all street artists worldwide, and the benchmark for them to use in their own works.

Jürgen Große, born in Berlin, calls himself a “city photographer”. With the 'city' meaning nearly completely Berlin photography. His place of birth and life undoubtedly features an unparalleled influence on the aesthetics of his work. For over twenty years, Jürgen has been documenting uncommon urban scenes and situations that others pass while not noticing. As a master of seeing, he captures the urban landscape and its transformation along with his classic film camera, that at first glance appears nonsensical. His passion for graffiti began within the nineties with the roll-out. He attended her creation, her life, and her demise photographically for years. Today, his motives are specific moments that arise spontaneously and unintentionally. for instance, traces of construction sites, that leave staff behind and which frequently appear so absurd that they raise queries. Jürgen Große likes what destroys, breaks down, or appears unpleasant to others, and he succeeds in turning this situation into something independent - in photography, that ceases to be a document and instead becomes an autonomous artwork.

This photo by Große is also one of documentary style, its aim is to convey a non-scripted scene, one that demonstrates unaltered vandalism that hasn't been staged or influenced for the benefit of the photograph. We see the dark paint clashing with what seems fairly ordinary white shop front. This provides a large range of contrast.

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