Inside Photographer Coco Capitán’s First Major Exhibition

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Coco Capitán: Busy Living
© Coco Capitán 2019 courtesy Loose Joints

We speak to the young image-maker on the the eve of her new show ‘Busy living everything with everyone, everywhere, all of the time’ opening in Paris

Coco Capitán is just 27 years old, but despite her age – or perhaps due to the fact she first picked up a camera at the age of seven – the photographer owns a precocious portfolio of work, reflective of a creative mind far beyond her years. Including painting and graphic design, her talent for uniquely interpreting the subtle visual language of the world around us has taken her from magazine page to gallery wall and back again. Most notably, perhaps, she is known for her collaboration with Alessandro Michele at Gucci, the creative director drawn to the contemplative, hand-drawn typography first posted on her Instagram account (and now a ubiquitous sight internet-wide).

But predominantly, Capitán is an image-maker, using the analogue medium of film to refreshingly punctuate a digital landscape. Last year, she staged her first solo show in Seoul and in 2017, published her first book of photography titled Middle Point Between My House and China. Now, the Spanish-born artist returns to Europe, presenting exhibition Busy living everything with everyone, everywhere at Paris’ Maison Européenne de la PhotographieCurated by the gallery’s new director, Simon Baker, who was the first to hold the title of Photographic Curator at Tate Modern, the show promises a unique reflection on Capitán’s work thus far. In addition, a new publication accompanying the show – name abridged to Busy Living – will be released by London-based publisher, Loose Joints.

Here, she explains the show’s very long title, and why, despite appearances, she doesn’t consider it a retrospective.

“The conversation around this exhibition probably started about a year ago. When I worked on my book Middle Point Between my House and China, I was invited to the same dinner as Simon and we had some really fascinating conversations around photography. When Simon moved to MEP from the Tate Modern, he said he wanted me to do his first show. I have many different pieces in the show – they were chosen because they are relevant to where I’m at right now.

“Having my work displayed on a wall and rather than the printed page is very different, but I really enjoy that. When you’re putting images in a book or in a magazine you need to think of the way the publication is going to be read. When you’re working a gallery space, you kind of need to think about how people will walk through and what will the narrative will be. It’s also a great opportunity to play with scale. There are some works that I will blow up to two metres – some I will scale down. It just really is about what the photograph is asking of you and what you want to say with it. Definitely there are photographs that do perfectly in a magazine and that is why I have really small photographs also in this show, I don’t only make it about having a massive picture inside. It’s more about what that picture means specifically.

“The title of the show is Busy living everything with everyone, everywhere, all of the time. It’s a long title [laughs] that reflects the speed of how we all live right now – this need of wanting to achieve everything in the matter of a single second. But it’s also about an energy for life as well, especially mine. I want to see everything in the world and I want to do it now. It’s just about the possibilities to really dedicating things, the time they need and also being very enthusiastic and wanting to achieve a lot, a lot in a little time. I don’t deal with it really well. I feel I am a bit overwhelmed with my own time, in the sense that I would like to have more time to enjoy things, be free, to enjoy everything possible, all sorts of possibilities and combinations to live this life. I guess that’s why I chose that title because I do feel a little bit trapped.

“I am 27 right now and I moved to London when I was a teen. I have always been doing my writing and my photography, but I don’t have any works that are older than that in this show. I didn’t want the exhibition to be a retrospective of my time working until now – it would be a bit arrogant considering my age. I think it’s more interesting to think about the present moment. Also, I don’t think you should do a retrospective unless you’re maybe like 70 or 80 and you have had many years of working. I have plans to put on exhibitions in the future – one in America, one in China. But at the moment I just really want to produce new work. This last year has been really focusing on looking at old work for these shows, so now I really want to turn my attention to on a couple of new series that I really want to start (and then we can think about what to do with them). I know that my next project is going to be focused on Spain. Because I moved from there to the UK when I was 17, I always felt I neglected it.”

Busy living everything with everyone, everywhere, all of the time runs from March 6 – May 26, 2019 at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris. An accompanying book, Busy Living by Coco Capitán, published by Loose Joints, is available for pre-order now.