From the candid to the conceptual and staged, editorial and documentary and from the intimate to the glamorous, the timeless to the fashionable, photographer Carlos “Kaito” Araujo works with some of pop culture’s most intriguing icons. The photographer and filmmaker arrived in Los Angeles at the age of 19 to work with Sean Combs as a director and photographer for his company. Now 23, Kaito has already made an indelible mark on celebrity portraiture in film, music and beyond. Watch for his September Vanity Fair cover featuring Combs — it’s sure to be an instant classic.
When did you first know you were an artist?
I first knew I was an artist when I was in high school. I would go out to explore the city and capture different scenes that stood out and told a story to me. I gravitated more to the idea of photojournalism because of this. That’s where I knew I had an eye for photography and it was my way of expressing my artistic side.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work is about storytelling, especially for the future generations to look back on. Every photo has a story behind it. Some stories you might hear or know about, and others may never be told and are just left for interpretation.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
If I weren’t an artist, I would most likely be an entrepreneur of some sort. I remember being a young kid, at the age of five, always working with my family in Cape Verde. I would be so eager to wash cars or work at the shop with my dad to earn some money.
Did you go to art school? Why/why not?
I went to the New England School of Photography for a short time. It was a two year program, but right before starting classes, I was presented with the opportunity to work with a music artist in L.A. I seized that opportunity and ended up moving to L.A. full time, so wasn’t able to finish the program.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I primarily live and work in L.A. because my main client, who I have been working with for four years, is based here. There are also so many great opportunities here, so for me to be accessible and close by helps a lot. I will say though, I recently went to Paris and I could see myself living there or even in New York City.
What was your most recent project?
My most recent project was photographing Sean Combs for Vanity Fair‘s September 2021 cover. It was a surreal moment, and I’ve always looked up to photographers that shoot their covers. I put pressure on myself to make sure the vision we all had was well executed and the intention in each image was pure. Everyone involved — my team, the Vanity Fair staff and Sean Combs — made the vision come to life.
What artist living or dead would you most like to work with?
I would love to collaborate with The Weeknd. His music is so abstract and different; it just gives me a feeling that is unexplainable.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I do listen to music while working. If I’m on set I’ll have my playlist ready with all kinds of different vibes, mostly hip-hop. But if I’m working from home, I’ll most likely be playing Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin or some R&B.
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