Photo London's star for 2024: Meet Coco Capitan

On a roll: Coco Capitan ( )
On a roll: Coco Capitan ( )

‘I love old-school travel — sailing, trains, trams,’ explains photographer Coco Capitán. ‘Isn’t there something magical about setting off with a small group of people and suddenly you are all crammed in one carriage, over a grand piano, and feel like you are from the same family?’

She would know; Capitán is a seasoned traveller, in part due to her upbringing between Seville, Cádiz and her youth spent in east London, but also thanks to her impressive career in fashion and fine art photography over the past 20 years with some of the world’s most feted fashion houses.

When we meet, dressed in her normcore uniform of brown hoodie, jeans and sneakers, you’d never guess that she frequently collaborates with the likes of Gucci, Dior and Burberry. ‘I love brands like Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe, but I try not to draw too much attention to my look. I think it should be more about my ideas and how I think.’

Oh, to be inside the mind of Capitán. Her photographic work (she also paints, illustrates and writes poetry, FYI) is best known for its youthful portraiture and joyful compositions. Her latest project is no exception: she’s partnered with Belmond, the luxury train and hotel operator that owns icons such as Venice’s Hotel Cipriani and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

It was the latter that forms the basis of her exhibition at Photo London, celebrating the joy of slow and purposeful travel along one of its historic train routes. ‘They came to me with the idea two years ago. I’ve always loved trains and they gave me carte blanche to shoot it in a way that felt natural to me.

‘I tried to really capture the spirit of the train and get it to be as real as possible. Instead of it being a super-curated model casting, I invited some friends, too (including music designer Yasmina Dexter). I wanted a more mature elegance in my subjects, rather than people who were younger than me.’

That the show has a commercial skew doesn’t diminish its importance, though it has elicited snobbery in the past towards her work. ‘In my experience, it was really important to participate in both worlds. I enjoy making books or exhibitions, but a huge part of my learning and practice — really looking into society and how things operate, how to work with a large group of people, and to be in touch with other relevant people in the industry — I think I got all that through commercial photography.’

Capitán’s inspirations are just as broad, from Tina Barney (‘her capacity to reproduce very day-to-day and domestic scenes in a way that feels unedited by her presence’) to Rineke Dijkstra (particularly the ‘Beach Portrait’ series). The common thread that unites them is that women have always been at the vanguard of photography, so it’s fitting that they will be front and centre of Photo London this year (not least Valérie Belin, who takes the Master of Photography position at the fair).

Why has it taken so long for this recognition? ‘Great question. Perhaps because we still live in an incredibly sexist society? If you look at the statistics, there are actually more women than men working in photography, but men tend to take most positions of power, even if they are less qualified.’

Still, she’s optimistic. ‘We just need to keep fighting to have more visible positions in the industry, for us to be treated really equal.’ With such fighting spirit, it seems the journey has only just begun for Capitán.

Belmond Presents ‘Shifting Horizons’, featuring Coco Capitàn, Rosie Marks and Letizia Le Fur, 16-19 May, Photo London, Somerset House, WC2 (


Three must-see women photographers, by ES picture editor Nicole Holcroft-Emmess


Le Fur’s work centres on the depiction of beauty and the representation of a fantasised otherworld. Expect to get lost in dreamy, artistic landscapes and natural textures.


Marks’ voyeuristic eye allows her to capture the oddities amid the human milieu. Flashy, stylised reportage portraits of teenagers at proms or couples on holiday are captured with a sense of humour.


Davey’s series The Garden, currently on show for a year outside The Photographers’ Gallery as its Soho Photography Quarter exhibition, captures intimate portraits of her subjects in her own wild, overgrown garden.