About the Photographer
American, b. 1953
Through separate series of photographs, Kerry Coppin is developing an ongoing body of work that deconstructs negative representations of Africa while exploring cultural identity and communal experience in the diaspora. Coppin states, "My photographs… are not documentary photography. My photographs are interpretations, testaments, and poems. They are indictments! Not the first, nor the last, in an ongoing debate—the means by which people of African descent will restore our histories and cultures to their rightful place in the world community."
For his contribution to the Changing Chicago project in the late 1980s Coppin photographed in African American communities in Chicago, depicting both public events and people in their homes. Although Coppin positions his own work apart from documentary traditions, Changing Chicago was conceived as one of the largest documentary photography projects ever organized in an American city. Sponsored by the Focus/Infinity Fund, with the support of five museums in Chicago, the project commissioned thirty-three photographers to photograph life throughout Chicago's diverse urban and suburban neighborhoods. Launched in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration documentary project, it honors the tradition of the FSA project while moving away from its predecessor's ambition of inspiring social change towards the more general goal of providing a nuanced description of the human experience in a particular geographic area.
Kerry Coppin studied photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York (1973) before completing a BFA at the Rochester Institute of Technology (1975) and an MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design (1977). His work is held in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He is a professor of visual art and Africana studies at Brown University.