2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Martha: A Picture Story’

May 1, 2019

by Carla Hay

Martha Cooper in "Martha: A Picture Story"
Martha Cooper in “Martha: A Picture Story” (Photo by Michael Latham)

“Martha: A Picture Story”

Directed by Selina Miles

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 25, 2019.

If you were to ask art aficionados who are the most respected and influential photographers of graffiti art, chances are that Martha Cooper would be near or at the top of the list. “Martha: A Picture Story” is a fascinating if uneven documentary of Cooper and her career. The movie keeps the spotlight focused on her professional life, since her personal life is barely mentioned.

Early on in the movie, Cooper says, “I’m not comfortable with the idea that I’m a legend or an icon. It’s not the direction I was going after.” What did happen was that Cooper discovered her passion for photography early on in her life so that by the time she graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa with an art degree at the age of 19, she was on her way to breaking into the male-dominated field of professional photography.

Early on in her career, her goal was to work for National Geographic. In order to do that, she had to build up a portfolio, so she joined the Peace Corps in 1963 at the age of 20, and lived for a while in Thailand. The photos she took while in the Peace Corps helped land her an internship at National Geographic.

She then married an anthropologist, and they moved to Japan, where he had his field work. While in Japan, she took photos of Japanese tattoo artists, but those photos were rejected by National Geographic because tattooing was considered too weird at the time. After moving back to the United States, Cooper became a staff photographer at the Rhode Island newspapers the Narragansett Times and the Standard Times.

She became bored with life in Rhode Island, and decided that New York City was more her speed, so she moved there in 1977. She had a fateful meeting with Susan Welchma, who was the photo editor at the New York Post at the time, and Cooper was hired to become the New York Post’s first female staff photographer.

It was at the New York Post that Cooper took her iconic photos of New York City street life in the 1970s and 1980s, and she says she fell passionately in love with capturing graffiti art in particular. Legendary graffiti artist Dondi (who was the subject of many of Cooper’s most famous graffiti photos) is obviously mentioned. Cooper says of Dondi that he was “very articulate” and “I spent eight hours one night watching him do a piece. It was fascinating.”

There are also some current and former graffiti artists who give interviews in the movie, such as Skeme, Doze Green, Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez and Jay “J.Son” Edlin. Also interviewed is photographer Henry Chalfant, who co-authored with Cooper the book “Subway Art,” a collection of photos of graffiti art on subways. Chalfant says that he and Cooper were rivals who decided it was better to join forces for the book. “Subway Art” was a flop when it was first published in 1984, but it developed a cult following. Because the book was hard to find (libraries had difficulty keeping it in their inventories because the book would often be borrowed and not returned), that lack of availability increased the demand for “Subway Art,” and it was eventually re-published and became a hit.

Cooper says she became so “obsessed” with graffiti art that she quit her job at the New York Post to photograph graffiti on a full-time basis. Welchma also moved on from the New York Post to become a photo editor at National Geographic, but Cooper’s work with the magazine “was not a good fit,” says Welchma. Cooper agrees, and says that her style of taking photos clashed with what National Geographic wanted. National Geographic wanted their photographers to “make photos,” while Cooper wanted to “take photos.” In other words, National Geographic wanted photos to look iconic, while Cooper felt more comfortable with spontaneous, “slice of life” photography that showed everyday people. Cooper, who is now a freelance photographer, has been working with City Lore—a New York City center for urban culture—since 1986. City Lore founder Steve Zeitlin is one of the people interviewed in the movie, and naturally, he has high praise for her.

Cooper’s marriage didn’t last, because she says that, among other things, her husband didn’t like living in New York City. She also says that she made a decision early on in her life that she didn’t want to have children, and that her friends give her emotional fulfillment. (Cooper also has a cat, who is shown numerous times in the movie when Cooper is being interviewed at her New York City apartment.) That’s about the extent of what’s said in the documentary about her personal life as an adult.

Curiously, the documentary doesn’t mention Cooper’s early influences and childhood until halfway through the movie. Growing up in Baltimore, she came from a family who encouraged her creativity: Her father co-owned a camera store with her uncle, and her mother was an English teacher. It isn’t until the documentary shows Cooper at her second home in Baltimore that her Baltimore roots are mentioned. Instead of living in a safe area, Cooper chose to reside in Baltimore’s crime-ridden Sowebo neighborhood to better capture street life. That’s not the kind of thing that most senior citizens would want to do in their golden years.

It’s in Baltimore that we see some of Cooper’s eccentricities. She shows a plastic bag full of disposed hypodermic needle caps that she’s collected in her predominately African American neighborhood. The items, which come in various colors and were obviously discarded by junkies, definitely have an “ick” factor, but Martha holds up one of the items up and says, “Isn’t that cute?”

This scene in the movie might have people thinking that Cooper is a white culture vulture who’s exploiting poor black people’s disenfranchisement for her own career. Cooper and documentary director Selina Miles don’t see it that way, because they go to great lengths to show that Cooper really does care about people of color, since there are numerous shots of her hugging people of different races and being friendly to everyone. And at an age when most people have settled into retirement, Cooper is still hanging out with graffiti artists all over the world, including the United States and Brazil.

If Cooper is accepted in urban communities that are predominately populated by blacks and Latinos, another place where she has an ardent following is Germany, where “Subway Art” was first published after U.S. publishers rejected the book. Germany is also where the documentary follows Cooper as she accompanies and photographs two graffiti artists (with their faces covered and voices disguised) who do an illegal “art attack” in a Berlin U-Banh station.

Earlier in the film, Cooper is shown doing the same thing with a group of about 10 graffiti artists (whose faces and voices are also disguised) who “art attack” a subway station in New York City. Cooper laments that New York City’s subways are now clean and “boring,” compared to the city’s graffiti heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. The documentary acknowledges that while many people see graffiti as vandalism and an eyesore, others such as Cooper see it as art.

There are some scenes in the film with Cooper going back to the original sites of her graffiti photos to compare how much the sites have been cleaned up since the photos were taken. The documentary also shows Cooper visiting Miami’s Wynwood Walls (a place for graffiti murals), where she talks about how smartphones and Instagram have made the art of photography more widespread and democratic. However, the world of professional photojournalism is still dominated by men. Cooper essentially says in the movie (because she’s living proof) that most women who succeed in photojournalism have to give up the idea that they can be a traditional wife and mother, if they choose to get married or have any children.

Even with all of her worldwide acclaim, Cooper says she still doesn’t feel accepted in the art world. That feeling is apparent when she has a somewhat awkward meeting with Steven Kasher, who at the time owned a self-titled photo gallery in New York City. (He closed the gallery at the end of 2018 to become a director of the influential David Zwirner gallery in New York City.) While considering Cooper’s photos for an upcoming exhibit, Kasher sniffs at her that he’s probably going to avoid choosing her photos of “cute children” and “smiling people” because people “don’t take those kinds of photos seriously,” but he might be convinced to use a few of those photos if she “pleads her case.”

It’s a scene like that where Cooper is shown being vulnerable and being critically judged that make the documentary more interesting than the predictable scenes of her being fawned over and adored by fans. The documentary also shows a somewhat sheepish Cooper reading old entries from her journal that describe her angst over being rejected early on in her career.

Even though the movie jumps all over the place and could have used better editing, Cooper’s passion for what she does and her engaging spirit make up for any minor production flaws that this documentary has. In the movie, Cooper shares her philosophy on how she approaches her work—and it’s a viewpoint that can also apply to how people should watch this film: “I’m not looking for ‘beautiful,’ but people making the best of what they have.”

Caesars Entertainment launches ‘Experience the Empire’ sweepstakes offering seven VIP experiences in various U.S. cities

April 3, 2017

Caesars Entertainment
(Photo collage courtesy of Caesars Entertainment)

Caesars Entertainment has launched its “Experience the Empire” sweepstakes that offers Total Rewards members a chance to win one of seven VIP experiences. The sweepstakes runs through June 25, 2017 and offers winners the opportunity to gain unprecedented access to some of the world’s most exclusive events and venues. No purchase necessary. Must be at least 21 years old to enter and win.

Here are the seven prizes:

  • The Fastest Horse Race in Louisville: Size up the horses and drink mint julips at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack on May 5, 2018 with two tickets to the Derby. Winner will receive $5,000 in cash, airfare for two, accommodations at Horseshoe Southern Indiana, $500 credit to dine at world-renowned restaurants, $500 in free play and VIP transportation during their experience.
  • American Thoroughbred Horse Racing in Baltimore: Winner will receive two tickets to the second jewel race of the at Pimlico Race Course on May 19, 2018, $2,500 in cash, airfare for two, accommodations at Horseshoe Baltimore, $500 credit to dine at world-renowned restaurants, $500 in free play and VIP transportation during their experience.
  • Las Vegas Entertainment: Enjoy the energy of Hollywood at the heart of the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. Winner receives two tickets to see one of the following resident performers at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood between June and September of 2017: Britney Spears: Piece of Me, Jennifer Lopez: All I Have, Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life or Pitbull: Time of Our Lives. This experience also includes $2,000 in cash, airfare for two, hotel accommodations, $500 credit to dine at world-renowned restaurants, $500 in free play and VIP transportation during their stay.
  • Atlantic City Escape to the Shores: Indulge in the finest that Atlantic City has to offer with one of two unique experiences during the weekend of July 4, 2017. Splurge with a $500 luxury shopping experience, $500 resort credit, $500 dining credit for world-class restaurants, a foodie experience at Viking Cooking School and $500 spa credit for the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon and Spa OR select an exclusive Night & Day Package which features a $500 Louis Vuitton shopping experience, $500 dining credit for world-class restaurants,  $500 resort credit, beachside experience that includes cocktails, admission for two to Pool After Dark with drinks and table service.
  • New Orleans Mardi Gras: Enjoy excitement, dining and great music in the heart of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Feb. 13, 2018. Winner will ride in the Orpheus Parade with a guest and receive exclusive tickets to Orpheuscapade, a black tie event where the winners will experience a side of Mardi Gras seldom seen by New Orleanians or visitors. Winner will also receive $4,500 in cash, receive airfare for two, accommodations at Harrah’s New Orleans, $500 credit to dine at world-renowned restaurants, $500 in free play and VIP transportation during their experience.
  • Lake Tahoe Celebrity Golf: Rub elbows with A-listers at a celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood in South Lake Tahoe, beginning July 11, 2017. Winner will receive $6,000 in cash, two tickets to the Celebrity Kick-off Party, access to two concerts during weekend festivities, tent access to the tournament, airfare for two, accommodations at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, $500 credit to dine at world-renowned restaurants, $500 in free play and VIP transportation during their experience.
  • The Big Race in Kansas City: Feel the need for speed in Kansas City. Winner will receive $2,500 in cash, two tickets to an elite stock car race at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 22, 2017, airfare for two, accommodations at Harrah’s North Kansas City, $500 credit to dine at world-renowned restaurants, $500 in free play and VIP transportation during their experience.

 

 

 

Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore, Curio Collection by Hilton, opens for business

March 21, 2017

Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore
Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore, Curio Collection by Hilton (Photo courtesy of Curio – A Collection by Hilton)

Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore, Curio Collection by Hilton has opened at 711 Eastern Avenue in Baltimore.

The following is an excerpt from a Curio Collection by Hilton press release:

The property is a  66-room boutique hotel and popular event venue situated on its own private pier along Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor. From this idyllic location, guests have only a short walk or water taxi ride to discover the city’s most spectacular attractions, such as the National Aquarium, M&T Bank Stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Pier 6 Pavilion, the Baltimore Convention Center, historic Fort McHenry and dozens of local shops and restaurants. The first Curio Collection hotel in Maryland, the three-story property just completed a million-dollar transformation.

Contemporary design, local flair

As stunning as the waterfront views is the ambience within the hotel. Enhanced by its recent renovation, Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore offers bold, whimsically-designed guest rooms and suites with such distinctive features as custom-made furniture and balconies boasting views of the Inner Harbor. Custom suites feature an array of amenities, such as a state-of-the-art entertainment center and a plush eight-person sofa. For the ultimate in luxury, the 1,900-square-foot Presidential Suite—also known as the Mystic Suite—includes a whirlpool, Swiss shower and panoramic harbor views.

The contemporary design extends throughout the hotel, with striking urban and local art decorating walls and hallways including custom murals depicting Baltimore attractions, fantastic terrazzo floors and a magnificent staircase to second floor ballrooms in the lobby atrium.

Delectable dining, gorgeous views

Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore offers the best in Baltimore dining, for fans of surf or turf. The hotel hosts chef culinary experiences including hands-on cooking demonstrations, food and beverage tastings and other culinary events throughout the week, highlighting chefs from its on-property restaurants. Festivities include Pier 5 Hotel’s signature Monday through Friday “Crabby Hour” featuring a variety of delicious bites such as sweet and savory, crabby crepes, sushi and crab cakes and waffles. On Saturdays, weekend visitors can indulge in tasty treats at the hotel’s chocolate hour.

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant features 30+ varieties of fresh seafood prepared in the warm, sophisticated atmosphere reminiscent of a private club. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse features USDA Prime steaks, which may be enjoyed from its waterfront deck. At either restaurant, patrons may drink in stunning Inner Harbor views, along with their premium handcrafted cocktails, beer and wine.

Exquisite events, inside or out

Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore is a sought-after destination for weddings, meetings and social events accommodating up to 300 guests, thanks to nearly 7,400 square feet of meeting and banquet facilities. Two ballrooms and four meeting rooms adjoin an expansive outdoor terrace, the ideal spot for breezy spring and summertime receptions featuring natural light and stunning harbor views.

Location and perks
After guests get their fill from the delicious crab-based dishes and food the Inner Harbor has to offer, they may enjoy complimentary passes to the nearby Maryland Athletic Club fitness and aquatic center, which features cardio stations with personal viewing screens, four salt water pools and two squash courts.

Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore is part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 14 world-class brands. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels save time and money and gain instant access to the benefits they care about most, such as an exclusive member discount, free Wi-Fi and a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay. Members can also redeem their Points for free nights, to gain access to unique events through the Hilton Honors auction platform or, coming soon, to make purchases with Amazon Shop With Points. To celebrate the hotel’s opening, Hilton Honors members will earn an additional 1,000 points per night on eligible, best available rate stays from April 13 through August 31, 2017 when booking directly with Hilton.

Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore, Curio Collection by Hilton is owned and managed by Meyer Jabara Hotels.

Sagamore Pendry Baltimore debuts


March 20, 2017

Sagamore Pendry Baltimore
Sagamore Pendry Baltimore (Rendering by Christian Horan)

Sagamore Pendry Baltimore in the city’s historic Fell’s Point neighborhood. A new luxury hospitality brand from Montage International, Pendry is a collection of new luxury hotels that combines inspired design and authentic service tailored to today’s world traveler.

The following is an excerpt from a Pendry press release:

Sagamore Pendry Baltimore features 128 luxury guestrooms, food and beverage concepts by renowned chef Andrew Carmellini of NoHo Hospitality Group opening to the public March 25, private meeting and event spaces, an outdoor pool and a vibrant lobby lounge.

Sagamore Pendry Baltimore was developed in collaboration between Montage International and Sagamore Development Company, owned by Kevin Plank, founder, chairman and CEO of Under Armour. Plank is making significant commitments across Baltimore through strategic investments managed by his privately-held company, Plank Industries, the parent company of Sagamore Development. The Fell’s Point neighborhood is recognized as one of the best-preserved historic areas in the country thanks to substantial revitalization efforts that have protected the historical integrity of the neighborhood.

In addition to its incredible architecture, Sagamore Pendry Baltimore is home to the following innovative food and beverage concepts:

Rec Pier Chop House – A prime Italian Chop House overlooking bustling Thames Street is devoted to time-honored Italian cooking. Presented by NoHo Hospitality Group’s acclaimed chef Andrew Carmellini and partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom (Locanda Verde, The Dutch, Little Park, and more), Rec Pier Chop House is centered around a progressive and seasonally focused menu devoted to simple but classic culinary offerings that have made Carmellini one of the most notable names in Italian cuisine. With a focus on classic Italian fare and prime cuts, the restaurant’s menu features prized, seasonal ingredients and the country’s best-purebred beef, sustainable seafood and farm-raised poultry alongside house made pasta, antipasti and homespun desserts.

The Cannon Room – In a nod to its storied past, The Cannon Room, an American whiskey bar, derives its name from the mighty cannons that lived beneath Recreation Pier for centuries. An 18th-century cannon unearthed during the pier reconstruction is permanently on display within the space. The setting houses an intimate bar and fireplace featuring a carefully curated menu of bourbon, rye and premium whiskey, and featuring Sagamore Rye, a newly crafted whiskey from the spring at Sagamore Farm.

The Pool – The hotel’s private pool deck offers a seasonal bar and grill with outdoor dining and lounging, set at the water’s edge. The deck is perched at the end of Recreational Pier with an open-air, panoramic view of the Baltimore Harbor, marina and city skyline. Five outdoor cabanas sit poolside and inspire you to unwind with friends or relax in solitude, all while enjoying the view.

Nordstrom Rack to open new stores in New York City, Baltimore, Portland, Bellevue

March 9, 2017

Nordstrom

Nordstrom has announced plans to open several new locations for its discount Nordstrom Rack retail chain. Here are the details:

New York City

A Nordstrom Rack will open in New York City’s Manhattan borough at the Durst Organization’s 855 Sixth Avenue, on the corner of 31st Street. The approximately 46,500-square-foot store is scheduled to open in fall 2017. Nordstrom Rack will occupy the first three floors of the newly constructed office/residential tower. It will be the second Nordstrom Rack store in Manhattan. The company has also announced plans to open a Manhattan flagship Nordstrom store in 2019.

Baltimore

Nordstrom Rack will open in 2019 at The Shops at Canton Crossing in Baltimore. The approximately 32,500-square-foot store  will be at 3501 Boston Street.

Portland, Oregon

A 28,000-square-foot Nordstrom Rack at Cascade Station in Portland, Oregon is scheduled to open in fall 2017. This will be the fifth Nordstrom Rack store in the Portland area. Portland is also home to the first stand-alone Nordstrom Rack store, which opened in Clackamas in 1983. The company also operates a full line stores at downtown Portland and Clackamas Town Center.

Bellevue, Washington

A 43,000-square-foot Nordstrom  Rack is set to open at the Lincoln Square Expansion in Bellevue, Washington, in fall 2017.   When it opens, the new store will be the eighth Nordstrom Rack in Western Washington. The company also operates six Nordstrom stores in the area: Downtown Seattle, Bellevue Square, Northgate, Alderwood, Southcenter and Tacoma Mall.