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Brianna Capozzi dazed well behaved women book Chloe sevigny
Chloë SevignyPhotography Brianna Capozzi

Chloë Sevigny & Hanne Gaby Odiele feature in new book exploring womanhood

Brianna Capozzi talks us through ‘Well Behaved Women’ – her photographic exploration of what it means to be a woman

New York-based photographer Brianna Capozzi has made a name for herself shooting the strong, vibrant women she surrounds herself with, in settings that balance surrealism and banality. Working with the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Natasa Vojnovic and her mother, Marie Capozzi, Capozzi’s playful style is underpinned with assertion and sensuality – and the images that make up her new book, Well Behaved Women, are no exception.

“I wanted to portray all the different sides of what it means to be a woman. I didn’t want to shove this idea of ‘strong women’ down anyone’s throat because that’s not all that we are. We go beyond that. We’re strong, yes, but we have our flaws and our insecurities too,” says Capozzi. “There’s an honesty to the images that comes from working with women that know themselves deeply.”

The honesty that’s projected from the pages of the book is down to the relationships Capozzi has built with the women that star in it. “I’ve known a lot of these women for a long time, and there’s a rapport between us now that allows me to step back from directing and let them do their own thing,” she says. “With Hanne (Gaby Odiele), for example, when we work together there’s this sense of freedom that’s really inspiring. She moves fast and takes control, and she’s totally open. It’s amazing to work with people that bring their own ideas and stories and work them into the shots.”

That there was something special about Odiele was evident to Capozzi from their first meeting, when they worked on a shoot for Garage magazine – as part of a collaboration with artist Darren Bader – in which the model gave an octopus a manicure and posed next to a horse wearing a pizza saddle.

“I love the story of that shoot!” the photographer recalls. “She was one of the first signed models I shot after only working with my friends, so that was a really intense thing for me. I knew my work was a certain way because of the trust I had with the people in my photographs, so it was scary not having that and having to tell someone your ideas without having that bond there. But Hanne was amazing and had so much energy, and every weird thing I asked her to do she was just like ‘okay!’ It was such a long day but she never faltered, even when I asked her to put a dead mouse in the gas tank of a car for the last shot, she was still totally ‘on’.”

For Odiele, the admiration is very much reciprocated: “That is still my favourite shoot. Brianna’s energy is infectious, and while there is direction, she allows you so much freedom to express yourself while making you feel totally comfortable,” says the model. “Whenever I shoot with her, I come away feeling powerful and beautiful.”  

Integral to the book are the clothes worn by the women featured – or, in many cases, not worn. “It ended up being that in a lot of the images, the girls are nude,” says Capozzi. “A lot of people ask ‘what is the meaning?’ It’s not so much that there’s a meaning, it’s much more that bodies are just bodies, and them being naked is just as normal as it would be if they had clothes on.” For the photographs where clothes are present, Capozzi worked closely with Haley Wollens, Delphine Danhier, and Dazed’s senior fashion editor, long-time collaborator Emma Wyman.

“It ended up being that in a lot of the images, the girls are nude. People ask ‘what is the meaning?’ It’s not so much that there’s a meaning, it’s much more that bodies are just bodies. Them being naked is as normal as it would be if they had clothes on” – Brianna Capozzi

“The process between Emma and I was very collaborative,” explains Capozzi. “We would go off to vintage rental appointments together and we had these long discussions about what we were going to use. But these images were hard for me, because it wasn’t really about the clothing the way it would be in a fashion shoot. It was about portraying emotion and personality, so the clothes were secondary. When garments are present, they are very intentional and serve a purpose in an image. For example, the image of Chloë with the hands around her would not be as effective without the Comme des Garçons stuffed hand pants. The same goes for the image of Okwui with the bangle under her top that’s causing a negative space between her breast and the material. Everything was very purposefully done.”

Now, with the book released into the world, Capozzi is considering her next steps. “It was so hard editing the book down, there were so many images I had to leave out,” she says. “But what was good was that a lot of the images that did make the cut were older ones that I wasn’t sure about at the time. Sometimes things need to grow and get stronger with time, and when you come back to them they’re more relevant and beautiful than you ever thought they were. I have a lot of unseen shoots that have not found their place in the world yet – but I believe they will when the time’s right for them.”

Well Behaved Women will be available from IDEA Books from May 3.