In the art world, graffiti is sexy, the subject of fawning attention from galleries, museums, and collectors. Tagging, though, largely resists the limelight. Photographer Martha Cooper’s book Tag Town, released last year, celebrates its stubbornly unglamorous aesthetic and documents the rise of tagging in 1970s New York. The art website Fecal Face recently sat down with Cooper to discuss the collection.
Sadly, the interview doesn’t break much new ground. The questions conflate Cooper’s interest in tagging with her interest in graffiti more generally, so we never get to hear what makes it a worthy photographic subject. It’s disappointing, because there are intriguing hints of insight. At one point, asked if she’d ever tried tagging, Cooper observed she’d never mastered it—she “found out how hard it was to repeatedly write with style.” Her respect is apparent in her photos, and I wish Cooper had been given a chance to elaborate.
It’s still worth a look, if only to hear Cooper talk about her experiences documenting a piece of budding hip-hop culture and to get a look at some of the Tag Town pictures.