William Coupon’s super-organized downtown studio is filled with images. Framed prints of his timeless portraits of famous people cover the walls. Surrounding the photographs, the space is full of globes and animals. In addition to his Bichon-Frise, Blanca, who greets you as you walk in, animals fill the room in pictures, paintings and small pieces of folk art from all over the world.
“I have always loved animals,” says William. “Photography was a way for me to travel, to make contact with the world. I never really set out to photograph animals, I was more interested in people in that way. But sometimes my intuition tells me to bring an animal into the picture.”
His pictures have taken him from the epicenter of celebrity chic New York, Studio 54 in its glory days to far-flung regions of Scandinavia among reindeer herders and to the aboriginal territories of Australia.
“I wanted to photograph both the visible people, the politicians and celebrities, and the invisible people, those that we overlook in our culture.”
He has shot every president since Richard Nixon (he hasn’t done Obama, yet). The list of celebrities includes Miles Davis, George Harrison, and Mick Jagger along with Brooke Shields, Linda Ronstadt and Alicia Keyes. He photographed the native people of the Brazilian Amazon, the Cuna Kuna Indians of Panama, and Kurds in the Silopi regions of Turkey on the Iraq border.
“Photography got me into a lot of worlds: endangered cultures and into The White House.”
I asked him about the differences in the way animals are viewed and treated in our culture and others: “In the less affluent places, animals seem to be more shared, less possessed. There might be a dog that is a local dog, not necessarily someone’s dog, just a village dog.”
Coupon and Blanca often travel together, most frequently to Canada: ”She likes Montreal because she gets to brush up on her French. And Canada is a much more dog-friendly culture than the U.S.”
He is currently working on a book of his pictures, Humanism, which features both his images of famous people and the pictures from his travels. Of his lifelong experiment of trying to illuminate the overlooked he says, “I had set out to photograph everyone in the world, and I’ve made pretty good progress since those early days. But somehow along the way, I realized that it was going to take a lot more time than I thought.”
By Liza Case, firstname.lastname@example.org