John Coplans Back Torso From Below 1985

  • Not on view

Coplans began making photographs of his own body while he was director of the Akron Art Museum in Ohio in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By cropping his body in unexpected ways and capturing it from unusual, oblique angles such as this one, Coplans renders this intimately familiar subject matter strange to both himself and the viewer. Interested in the flawed ordinariness of an aging man’s body, he always leaves the head out of the frame, emphasizing the universal quality of the human form. Likening his photographic process to one of the most fundamental acts of drawing, Coplans recalled of his early practice, "It was like beginning life-drawing class all over again, with myself as the model."

Gallery label from Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration, March 14–July 9, 2012.
Additional text

Coplans began taking black-and-white photographs of his naked body when he was sixty years old. Even though they are self-portraits, Coplans never includes his face in his images, representing a universal male body instead of a particular identity. “My photos recall memories of mankind,” he has said. Here the way he contorts his body results in a nearly abstract form that emphasizes line and curves. By photographing his body in the later years of his life—defying the conventions of youthful beauty—Coplans confronts issues of aging and deterioration, subjects generally ignored and feared in contemporary society.

Gelatin silver print
13 3/4 × 17 1/4" (35.1 × 43.8 cm)
Gift of Peter MacGill
Object number
© 2024 The John Coplans Trust

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