Before pursuing a career in portrait photography, shooting subcultures around the world – Australia, Haiti, Lapland, Mexico, Morocco, and the Philippines – American photographer William Coupon found himself at Studio 54, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s legendary nightclub. Those who attended, despite its short-lived run of 33 months following a tax and drug scandal, included the likes of Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, Bianca Jagger, and every other luminary of the 1970s you can name; it was the place to be and everyone wanted in.
Fortunately for Coupon, he befriended the doorman. “I don’t know why he liked me, but he let me in,” he says, while reflecting on the club’s seductive opulence and strict exclusivity. Well-known for its door policy, even the best and most interestingly dressed would sometimes be turned away – but that was part of the magic. “You had to have an entry there and it was very difficult to get in,” he adds. “I wish there was a place like that today; it was spectacular and unlike anywhere I’d ever been to. Everything was to the utmost decadence, and the people loved it. It was the whole scene to get in.”
Coupon grew up in Washington DC and now resides in Santa Fe. During the late 70s, though, he gravitated towards Manhattan. “As soon as I knew that New York existed, there was no other place to go in my life. I wanted to be somebody – although I’m not sure who that somebody was.” That somebody is what he would now describe as a “voyeur”, rather than a photographer.