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William Coupon


Chicklet Lady. Jacmel, Haiti 1979

William Coupon (b. 1952, USA) became interested in formal studio portraits in 1979 while observing the lower Manhattan youth and decided early on to use a single-light source and simple mottled backdrop as a studio style. This was then used to document specific global cultures and 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, Israeli Druzim, Moroccan Berbers, Spanish Gypsies, Turkish Kurds, among others. These projects also included Death Row Inmates, Drag Queens, and Cowboys. Stylistically, they were always photographed formally on a drop and environmentally with a 2 1/4 Rolleiflex. In addition to his personal images William has worked extensively in commercial photography and film with over 20 Time Magazine covers – including portraits of all the Presidents since Richard Nixon. He has also completed major advertising campaigns for Nike, FedEx, Ford, Japan Airlines, Apple Computer and many others.

About the Photograph:

“The portrait of this woman, carrying boxes of Chicklets on her head took place in the seaside town of Jacmel, Haiti. I had decided to take a trip to Haiti rather spontaneously with my girlfriend, who I’d met at the Mudd Club in lower Manhattan. Having just finished a series of Punk portraits in New York at the time, Haiti seemed like a refreshing destination. Or so it seemed. It was intensely poor and ‘more African than Africa.’ I felt as much a novelty to them as they did to me. Haiti ~ the land of voodoo and the first black republic in the western hemisphere. I arrived in Jacmel and found my way around the main marketplace, spoke with a shopkeeper and convinced him to let me shoot there the following day. I would be giving everyone an SX-70 Polaroid and 2 gourds ~ the equivalent of 40 cents. The scene was bedlam. There were lines around the corner. I photographed the subjects against my hotel room’s bedspread ~ I did not have my mottled backdrop.  I kept up the sessions until my money ran out. I probably met and photographed over 100 people that day, with many more potential subjects eager to lend their faces to me. This lady, with the Chicklet boxes, is one of my favorites that day.”


[via Verve Photo- The New Breed of Documentary Photographers]

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