8 Week Portrait Class - Coupon

This is the final post in an 8 part series about my discoveries, inspiration and creations with Don Giannatti’s 8 Week Portrait Class.

The final master photographer in the 8 Week Portrait Class is William Coupon. He has photographed 15 Time magazine covers including all the American presidents since Richard Nixon, photographed many world leaders, won awards for assignment work for various publications including Forbes and Fortune, completed major advertising campaigns for names like Nike, Ford and Apple, and also worked on many major corporate campaigns for Merrill/Lynch, Harvard University and the list goes on.

Early in his career, Coupon became interested in formal portraiture. He began using one light and a simple mottled backdrop that was used as a highly mobile studio. This portable studio was used to document global sub-cultures and he created a many projects known as “Social Studies” in which he documented Indigenous people, some included Australia Aboriginals, Native Americans, Spanish Gypsies, Turkish Kurds. To add to the mix, there were also Drag Queens, Death Row Inmates and Cowboys. All subjects were photographed formally using the single light source and backdrop and Coupon would then also make black and white environmental portraits using a 2 1/4 Rolleiflex. 

I would have always thought that my photographs would speak to the viewer regardless of what was in front or behind the subject, whether or not there was a backdrop or a scene. I was always more interested in what my eyes could record along with some hopeful accompanying insight. I was sure I didn’t want the work to be disposable. I wanted it to endure and last for a long time.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the “Art of Seeing.” Its much like music. We can play all day and at the end of that day you might have a tune people want to hear and share. Like music, photographs have time signatures. If one is lucky, you may have 7 photographs that stand the test of time, seven tunes. Those are the photographs you are remembered by. The hope is that they live on forever. you can never practice enough seeing...
— William Coupon

Stylistically, Coupon’s portraits are intimate using warm, earthy tones and the mottled canvas backdrop that gives a painterly feel to the images. There is a quality about them that is real and a feeling you can relate to the subjects. They are more about personality and expression than fashion or glamour.

I love Coupon’s use of warm tones, that textured background and one light source. My kind of style. I think I will be getting my hands dirty and creating some hand painted backdrops very soon! Big thanks again to Cassie who modelled for me this week, just beautiful!!