Thursday, October 27, 2011

William Coupon

"William Coupon, Self Portrait"

"Wheel Twirl, Carnival, Maryland"

"The Bellagio, Las Vegas"

"Holiday Inn, Las Vegas"

I want to thank William Coupon for his kind permission, allowing me to share his work here on my Masters of Photography blog.

Willaim Coupon biography from his web site:

My first photographs were photographs that talked – called "audiographs" – which were photographs that had looped cassettes behind a framed image, and photographs that moved – called "kinetographs" – which were photographs that were attached to moving motors. The "kinetographs" were commissioned for window displays at Bloomingdale’s in the late l970’s. I photographed a documentary on Studio 54, the legendary New York disco, in late summer l978, and they immediately were included in the International Center of Photography exhibition: "Fleeting Gestures: Treasures of Dance Photography."

I became interested in formal studio portraits in 1979 while observing it’s lower Manhattan youth (my peers) and it’s present counter-culture, and decided early on to use a single-light source and simple mottled backdrop, and when I needed to, I would set this up as a portable studio, one highly mobile. This was then used to document global sub-cultures. Many of the projects – referred to as "Social Studies" – became documents of indigenous people. These include projects on Haiti, Australian Aboriginals, Native Americans, Scandinavian Laplanders, Israeli Druzim, Moroccan BerbersSpanish Gypsies, Turkish Kurds, Central African Pygmy, and Panamanian Cuna and Chocoe. These projects also included Death Row Inmates, Drag Queens, and Cowboys. Stylistically, they were always photographed formally on the backdrop, and contextually, or environmentally , with 2 1/4 Rolleiflex black and white images, which were meant to be companions to the studio portraits.

Willaim Coupon biography from Wikipedia:

William Coupon (born December 3, 1952) is an American photographer, born in New York City, known principally for his formal painterly backdrop portraits of tribal people, politicians and celebrities.

William Coupon was born in New York City, but moved to Washington, D.C. and later to San Francisco. He attended Syracuse University and ultimately moved to New York City to begin his photographic career. He began in 1979 to photograph backdrop portraits of New York’s youth culture, to document its “New Wave/Punk” scene at the then popular Mudd Club in lower Manhattan. Commercial work soon followed for a variety of international magazines, record companies and advertising agencies.

The portrait style is up-close and painterly, with very warm earth tones against a mottled canvas. The style is usually medium-shot and classically lit using medium format cameras, referencing the Dutch painting masters such as Rembrandt and Holbein. The portraits have a quality about them that is less about fashion than about personality and as groups there is attempt to show their disparity as well what is relatable amongst the earth’s faces in a manner that is real, non-compromising, or over-glamorized. They were often accompanied by environmental images, which have a noticeably journalistic feel.

Some of his most notable images are of the Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton (which were “Person of the Year” covers for Time Magazine), Yasser Arafat, George Harrison, Willy DeVille, Mick Jagger, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Miles Davis.


  1. They look great. I appreciated so much his portraits, first of all, and still lifes too. thanks for sharing his webpage, as well, still visiting it!

  2. Many thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. I know you'll enjoy William's web site. There is a lot there, and it will keep you occupied for several well-spent hours.


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