John Coplans

John Coplans was an English photographer, painter, writer and curator born in London in 1920. His first photographs were taken in 1941 whilst serving in the King’s African Rifles in Ethiopia. As an artist in his earlier practice he began with abstract painting and grew to have a passion for photography. He spent his life teaching, writing, curating and working as a visual artist.

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Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above), 1984

His most famous works are photographs he took of his own body from the age of 60 over 20 years. The photographs are black and white and of large, life-size scale enlarged from Polaroids and serve as a documentation of aging. There is an aspect of anonymity by how Coplans crops out the head, and the quality of the images give an incredible texture and malleability to the skin. Coplans’ presentation of his aged body stands as a criticism of the culture of beauty and vanity of the art world in the 80’s.

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Self-Portrait (Hands Spread on Knees), 1985

Displayed on a huge scale, Coplans’ body becomes a landscape of flesh. The quality of the photograph heightens the texture and detail of the skin and a dramatic atmosphere is created by the depth of the shadows

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