Interview by Mia Kingsley
Coco Capitán was recommended to me by the great Carly Scott as a suggestion for my next interview, so I looked up the photographer and was instantly enchanted. Her work is fresh, bold and captivating. I love her use of colour, her particular style that captures her subjects in the coolest way possible and her group photos are simply amazing. At 21 she really is making a name for herself. We chat about her move to London to ‘start her life’, her connection with China and her dream to shoot in zero gravity. Meet Coco Capitán…
So how did you start taking photos?
As a child I loved to look at pictures in books and magazines; I would crop anything I liked and stick it into my notebooks. The first picture I remember taking was a summer snapshot of my mother by the seaside. I think I was eight or nine years old. About a year later, we brought the roll to develop, I did not remember I had taken my mother’s picture, but when I first saw it I could recognise I took it and I enjoyed that feeling. When I was twelve my father bought a digital camera that could fit in my pocket and I discovered that I could download the pictures to a computer. I took pictures of absolutely everything until I broke the camera. Around that time I started travelling overseas on my own during the summers for my studies, I felt I could keep close to the people and places I visited if I took their picture. I would buy disposable cameras and shoot all the time. I have lost most of those pictures, unfortunately.
You’re currently studying at the London collage of Fashion, tell us about the course your taking…
I study Fashion Photography and this is my last year. I am happy to finish just because I work a lot outside school and finding time for everything gets more and more difficult everyday. I will definitely miss my classmates, the studios, the corridors and the technicians. The best part of studying something like photography is that you get to know people who live your passion in a very intense way too. I am constantly learning from my classmates. I was never interested in the technical part of photography, but thanks to them I realised it is not only important, but also really cool to know how to do what you want to do and to feel calm and safe when I walk into the studio.
Tell us about your love for fashion photography, what is it that entices you?
I especially enjoy portraying people, and fashion is a good way to do it. It is true that I shoot more fashion than anything else, but it is just an easy way to go through the days: you have an idea- you shoot it. Fashion is fast. Also, I am a bit solitary person but working in fashion pushes me to work with people I like and I meet new people frequently. My favourite part is that I get to travel a lot. I don’t know, I never thought I would end up shooting fashion, but here I am and I love it.
You say you have a relationship with documentary photography too, do you feel taking these photos is your own way of diary keeping?
Yes. Diary pictures just happen on the way, but I have to say other times I just go to the street looking for the moment. I can spend a whole day walking around with my camera trying to find things and people to photograph. Sometimes I do not photograph them on the way, though; I just ask for permission to photograph them in a different environment or if they want to come to see me to the studio.
How do you feel when you look back at past photos? Has your work developed from when you first started out?
To be honest I do not look that much at the past, I am always thinking what is the next thing. When a picture is ready to display I need some distant from it.
I think my development has been almost radical. I do not believe in gifted people, but in hard-working people. My pictures were quite bad at the beginning, but I have been working on it since I knew it was what I liked. Practice makes everything.
What do you find inspires you most? Which artists do you admire?
Now I do not look at pictures as much as I did as a child. My main inspirations come from literature and strangely from music. I try not to be to attached to any reference and let things happen. My favourites shoots are those in which I have planned little. In contemporary and London-based photography I admire the Lebons: Mark and Tyrone, father and son. Then I could not be more classic on my references: a good Richard Avedon group portrait in studio, Corinne Day in the 90s, Steven Meisel before it became so glossy, a Juergen Teller goes-and-sees, Oliviero Toscani for Benneton, Comme des Garçon’s advertising, Ryan McGinley’s naked bodies… Nothing new from what any photography enthusiastic would say. I think the 90s were definitely the time for fashion photography, I am happy I was born in 1992 and a lot has been done since then, that challenges the perspective of my present.
You’re currently working on a book, ‘Middle Point Between My House and China’ Tell us about it…
I travelled all over China when I was sixteen. I have a strange link with the country in a natural way. Somehow it was part of me. Last year I lived in Beijing for three months. The book is not really a documentary, it is more like a collection of thoughts and images on my personal relation with the country. There is a bit of everything on it, from my first impressions as a child to the moment I felt ‘the China episode’ was closed. It should be out next May, I will keep you updated.
Please do!! You say you moved to London to ‘start a life’ How have you found London, has it changed your life?
Completely. In London I live in a sort of parallel dimension: I do what I want when I want. I don’t think that could happen in a city with a slower rhythm. I had nothing but a lot of intentions when I arrived here. It was my own decision to move to this city. I enrolled myself in University, I had to find work on my own and find a place to live and I was very young. That gives you a lot of freedom. Now I am finally in this point when I can make a call an arrange things for a shoot in half a day, I did not even dream about it five years ago, and somehow I owe it all to London.
Do you think your environment is important, does it effect your way of working?
It is – in a way, the environment influences a lot. But the attitude is always the most determining factor. You can create your own environment if you work for it.
If you could describe your style in 3 words…
Messy, persistent, contemplative.
Would you say your work reflects you as a person?
Absolutely. Sometimes I think I take pictures because it is my way of expressing my feelings and the things I have to say. My pictures are my favourite alternative to talking.
Tell us what would make your dream photo shoot, who would be there, what would be happening?
My dream is to take pictures in zero gravity with very loud music. The models would be my friends. Imagine: everyone floating, water everywhere but no one gets wet. Me shooting up and down indifferently. The camera comes and goes and for a moment you do not know who is pushing the button anymore. It would be great.
Whats next for you Coco? Where will your photos be taking you?
I have no idea, but I can only keep trying and hope for the best.
Aw thanks so much Coco!! We really do look forward to that shoot in zero gravity! For more of Miss Capitán’s amazing photography please check out the links below..
Next week I will be chatting with Laurence Philomène, a super cool photographer living in Canada who has a passion for pink but until then for more ‘Mia Meets…’ or more Mia Kingsley: