Home as a state of mind #1: Coco Capitán

This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine, themed Home, delivered direct to you with an 1854 Subscription, or available to purchase on the BJP shop

In the first of our four part series, Home as a state of mind, Coco Capitán reflects on water as a site of growth and liberation – a home from home

“The ache for home lives in all of us,” Maya Angelou wrote in her 1986 book, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes. “The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

While home often denotes domestic space – imbued with memory, ritual and familiar bonds – it can also manifest elsewhere. The notion of home is not static. It can be constructed, constantly changed and recreated, trading in emotion and connection while navigating the politics of belonging and safety. Home can be interiority, community and a state of mind; it can be a sensation that, instead of provoking nostalgia, is rooted in extreme care and sublime possibility.

Home as a state of mind is a four-part series exploring the space and mindstate that provides artists with a sense of belonging. For Coco Capitán, water remains a site of growth and liberation – a home from home.

Coco Capitán spent much of her childhood in a swimming pool. After attending a synchronised swimming show in her hometown of Seville, she fell in love with the sport and began training for it when she was just six years old.

“I wanted to fly out of the water,” the Spanish artist says. “I had such a romantic view of the pool. I would just swim and get lost in my imagination.” Capitán refused to let anything derail her enchantment with water. She abandoned all other hobbies to commit to her swimming team’s gruelling daily training schedule and persevered even when she was bullied by other team members.

After training for a decade, in 2014, Capitán and her family moved to Cádiz. Though located on Spain’s southern coast, there was no synchronised swimming team for her to join in the seaside town.

© Coco Capitán.

“It represents a space where I don’t have to rely on anyone else. I can just be myself and be free”

© Coco Capitán.

“I dreamed about training every night for years,” she explains. “It was a kind of healing process for everything that I had been through.” It wasn’t long before she began a new relationship, this time with the sea. She would set her alarm early, cycle to the beach and swim alone every day before school. “That was my first experience of freedom and independence. It was just me and the sea and none of the pressure I had in the pool. It was very liberating and remained a huge influence.”

As Capitán’s creative practice evolves, traversing fashion and fine art, the sea continues to inspire her. Its attendant themes of adventure and isolation are used as a framework to reimagine ideas around gender, queerness and our relationship with our body. Blue hues dominate her work, as she creates a space where fantasy collides with reality.

In her most recent work, Naïvy – shown in a solo exhibition at Maximillian William, London, in 2020 and published as a book earlier this year – she contemplates the role of the sailor; and its paradoxical embodiment of individual freedom and collective belonging.

For Capitán, water remains a site of growth and liberation – a home from home. “It represents a space where I don’t have to rely on anyone else,” says Capitán. “I can just be myself and be free.”

Gem Fletcher

Gem Fletcher is a freelance writer who contributes to publications such as Aperture, Foam, The Guardian, Creative Review, It’s Nice That and An0ther. She is the host of The Messy Truth podcast - a series of candid conversations that unpack the future of visual culture and what it means to be a photographer today. You can follow her on Instagram @gemfletcher