John Coplans was born in London in 1920 and grew up between the UK and South Africa. He died in 2003 in the United Stated. He spent the entirety of World War II as a soldier and later studied painting in London and Paris before moving, in 1960, to the West Coast of America, where he abandoned his career as an artist and became a lecturer in Berkeley. In 1962 he was one of the founders of the influential Artforum magazine. John Coplans worked at various US institutions and became director of the Akron Art Museum in 1978. However, in the early nineteen-eighties he retired from the position to devote himself exclusively to photography. His photographic work has been exhibited in every major art institution in the USA, including a retrospective in 1997 at the PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York (now MoMA PS1).
His work was included in the exhibition 'Dancing with Myself' (2018) at Punta della Dogana.