John Coplans

‘The principal thing is the question of how our culture views age: that old is ugly. […] I’m seventy years old, and generally bodies of seventy-year-old men look somewhat like my body. It’s a neglected subject matter. If I accept the cultural situation, I’m a dead man’. About ten years before he made this statement, John Coplans gave up his middle-class career as a curator and critic to compile his first artist book, a quirky piece titled Body of Work, which is entirely based on a photographic exploration of his own body. What began as simple sketches after work, at night, with the artist naked in front of the camera with a self-timer, was meant to demonstrate the immense transformative power of the photographic image. The fragmentary close-ups of his hands, feet, torso, and back on large-format negative stock turned the body parts into something else: they became architectural views of the body or, as Coplans himself described it, into a mummy, a tree root, a sculpture. For Coplans, the representation of his own body, always excluding his face, seems to have been not so much an examination of the self as a large-scale sculptural challenge. Yet for him it represented the sum of his existential experience.