When examining the content and style of the images in Angelo Cozzi’s Innocence in the Mirror, one could be forgiven for assuming that the photographer had a background in portrait or fashion photography. He was born in 1934, began his work in photography in 1951 and quickly gained recognition for his talent as a top-notch photo journalist. His resumé includes a number of major international events, most notably wars and several Olympic Games.
Despite the nature of the sensitive material in this book, Cozzi insists his approach was still reportage. He simply turned his camera to a more intimate subject, the experience of becoming a woman. Perhaps the most intriguing thing to many of us is that somehow someday these girls will undergo a magical transformation. At any age, one sign or another of a girl’s form or character is changing and she must in one way or another adapt as must those around her. Naturally, such times are occasions for reflection, both metaphorically and literally and the vulnerable moments that ensue were what Cozzi hoped to capture in his images.
To accomplish this required extensive preparation. Revelatory personal moments are fragile and could be missed if the subjects didn’t feel perfectly at ease. Cozzi used the mirror not only as an apt metaphor but as a technical device for becoming invisible to his subjects while they were posing. A custom mirror had to be designed to eliminate the undesirable double image that conventional mirrors produce, mood music chosen by the girls was played to help hide the clicks of the camera and the light was controlled yet flexible so anything the subject did could still be captured on film without undesirable shadows. The studio was dressed to create the impression of an intimate space and was carefully heated for maximum comfort. In order to secure the trust of the girls and their families, Cozzi promised them that any negatives or photos that they were not happy with would be destroyed on the spot in their presence. Only these drastic measures seemed enough in Cozzi’s eyes for each girl to express her inner self. To make sure he would not miss spontaneous moments, he used the same Nikon camera he used in his journalistic career so he could minimize technical difficulties. Although some garments were used as props in the images, the nudity was considered important, otherwise the girls might adapt themselves to the themes implied by a particular style of dress.
After seven years of effort, the result is this collection of photographs that were published in book form in 1978. They were also exhibited in galleries in Milan and New York. The pages are laced throughout with poetic narrative to project the work’s mood to the reader. Cozzi did not focus on a particular age, but used the daughters of friends and acquaintances. The youngest model was his own 5-year-old daughter Anna and thus the physical development portrayed ranged widely. The softness of the images suggests that Cozzi was conforming to the conventions of erotic photography of the time, but the effect is really the result of his effort to create an environment that would promote the necessary confidence. Some images are printed full size while others give the impression of a cameo. The first image is of Cozzi in his studio with Anna.
More information on Angelo Cozzi’s career can be found here.