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NYC Street Surprise for Photographer Martha Cooper on her 70th

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"I can't believe it. I never expected this, ever."

The famed Houston Street Wall was the site of a sidewalk surprise birthday party Saturday for photographer Martha Cooper, who was planning to stop by for what she thought would be a new mural shoot. The world famous graffiti photographer had no idea that artists How and Nosm had begun masking the letters of her nickname out of their mural at 7 a.m. to create a larger-than-life birthday card for her.

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Detail from the Houston Street Wall celebrating photographer Martha Cooper's birthday (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Thanks to speedy social media, a sunny early spring day, and her stature as an historic photographer of fortitude and integrity, the impromptu all-star guest list of some big graffiti and street art names from the last four decades ballooned throughout the day for this street side celebration, while the boisterous honking New York traffic rolled by.

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As the sun comes up on the Houston Wall in NYC, How and Nosm buff their mural and mask out her name. (photo © courtesy How & Nosm)

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The "Marty" wall begins at the Houston Wall in NYC as How and Nosm buff their mural and mask out her name. (photo © courtesy How & Nosm)

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The "Marty" wall begins at the Houston Wall in NYC as How and Nosm buff their mural and mask out her name. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

By the time Martha and her cousin Sally arrived with wall organizer Meghan Coleman just after noon, the "MARTY" letters had already been half completed and she stood staring with mouth smiling and agape, waving at the cluster of photographers shooting her atop the Houston Street meridian. A second later she was laughing and racing across the street, camera in hand, ready to capture the painting action and get mobbed with well wishers. Cooper confessed to being pretty overwhelmed by the sight of her name so big. For her part, Sally, a confidant and buddy since they attended grammar school together in their hometown of Baltimore, burst into tears.

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How & Nosm at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Just inside of one day the famed wall that has hosted the likes of Haring, Scharf, Fairey, and Faile was suddenly regaled in eye-popping color and a variety of styles by Lady Pink, How and Nosm, Bio from Tats Cru, Freedom, Free5, Crash, Daze, Terror 161, Faust, and Aiko -- producing a head-spinning and sweet greeting to a person whom they all respect and admire for her work and determination.

In addition to the steady flow of fans, writers, artists, bloggers and photographers asking to have a photo taken with one the few photographers of New York's 1970s subway graffiti scene, a number of friends stopped by to have some birthday cake and watch the painting - like Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn, his brother John Ahearn, hip-hop photographer Joseph Conzo, and master sculptor Simon Verity, among others.

The brand new "Marty" mural is up for an incredibly short time -- probably only a few days -- so if you have an opportunity or inclination, catch this personal and public display of affection for a lady who helped us all appreciate art in the streets.

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Bio from the Tats Cru at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Crash shows his sketch for his portion of the wall. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Crash at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Martha (center) arrives and gets a big surprise. Flanked by Meghan Coleman on the left and Cousin Sally on the right. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Davide (Nosm) greets Martha. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Faust at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Freedom at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Freedom signs a book and talks to a young admirer. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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"Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Daze at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Terror 161 at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Bio at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A person who may be a devotee of the SeaPunk movement. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A New Yorker captures the action from the comfort of his taxi while waiting for the light to turn green. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Bio does the official birthday wish."Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Lady Pink at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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How & Nosm at work. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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"Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Aiko at work, or rather, her shadow. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Laboutins and aerosol make a riveting combination for Aiko. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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All the artists with Marty. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Marty poses for us. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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BSA loves Martha Cooper. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko. (photo © Leah )

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The final shot. "Marty" at the Houston Wall in NYC; A tribute to Martha Cooper in collaboration with How & Nosm, Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash and Aiko (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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