Mon, 12 Sep 2022 16:05:00 GMT
Growing up in a big family - with eight siblings and at least 20 cousins - Little Minx’s photographer and filmmaker Carlos ‘Kaito’ Araujo spent a lot of time socialising and playing football with his tight-knit group of relatives. As well as his passion for the beautiful game, Kaito’s love for photography and directing also developed early on - borne from his amiable and sociable nature as a sweet kid, describing himself as a bit of a “mama’s boy”.
“Photography and directing is a very sociable activity,” he says. “You have to communicate and talk to so many people - so my career was easy to fall into, sort of a natural fit.”
Kaito’s roots lie in the Western African island nation of Cape Verde, where his parents were born and raised, before emigrating to the US in adulthood. Despite being born in Boston and living in The States, he very much feels a part of his heritage and has maintained the cultural learnings and traditions of his parents and their country - also adding to his cultural capital by taking annual journeys abroad. “I grew up in that African culture more than American culture. I’m fluent in that language (a Portuguese-based creole language). My group of friends was very diverse. Being from a different culture and always travelling every year gave me substance, balance and a perspective on how others live in the world.”
As an adolescent, Kaito says he was “always slammed, trying to make money.” At the minimum age requirement to work (just 14-years-old) he was working at the McDonald’s his aunt managed - right next to Patriots Stadium and one of the busiest in Massachusetts. “I could only work four hours a day and couldn’t touch the food, not even the coffee. I worked at a monitor taking orders for the entire four hours. I did that for two years.” Even when he turned 16 and moved to another McDonald’s closer to his house, to the surprise of his new colleagues, he still wasn’t trained to handle food and worked in a booth taking money at the weekends - as well as sweeping floors at a local barbers on top of that.
When it came time to go to college, or enter the world of full-time work, Kaito chose to attend the New England School of Photography - only to drop out a month later. “I had to wake up super early to catch a bus for an hour and a half ride, get to class at eight in the morning and stay there till 5pm, then an hour and a half back. It was tiring, but I learned a lot, like how to properly catalogue and organise my work. I also learned I had to pay student loans even though I went to school for only one month.”
Photography had remained just a hobby for Kaito until a rapper he was working with, King Los, flew him out to LA. Now in California’s creative hub, Kaito spent one year working for King Los, before starting his professional relationship with ‘Puff Daddy’ Sean Combs, an artist he had impressed during his short time at college. “I met Puff in Boston, he had a show when I was in photography school. I snuck up to him after the show and showed him my work and he asked me to join his tour for two more shows. I realised then that photography could take me somewhere. I was getting good at it and always trying to get better. I realised I could make a career out of it.”
He continues, “It was exciting working for Puff. I was shooting him and his group everywhere, at the barbershop getting a haircut, whatever. It was lifestyle photography, documenting an artist, following him to work in the studio and with other celebrities like Justin Bieber.”
While growing the artist’s brand, Kaito was also growing his own - the consistent supply of content for Puff acting as a showcase for his talent in photography, and later, videography. As the content era dawned around 2015-2016, the photographer made the jump to video, shooting behind-the-scenes and documentary films throughout Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour in Autumn 2016. Starting out humbly, the content filmed from the tour and of Sean’s personal life was captured entirely using a Canon 5D with a shotgun mic attachment and natural lighting.
From these modest beginnings, Kaito has forged a career shooting both photography and film for some of the biggest brands and artists in the world. Recently, he photographed Pete Davidson, NBA star Trae Young and DJ Steve Aoki for the Call of Duty Modern Warfare II ‘Ultimate Team’ campaign, an exciting project for the photographer, who grew up playing Call of Duty throughout high school. “Pete Davidson is a great guy, very focused, very professional, great sense of humour and very patient. And the Activision team was solid. They always knew what they wanted. I knew what to expect.”
Kaito has also had the opportunity to work with artists like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and more - earning him the cover on magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair. “It’s fucking nuts to me, surrealistic. I actually still don’t believe it.” He adds, “The photographers who have inspired me the most have shot hundreds of covers and here I am just getting started. I’m just looking ahead to the future. Doing a cover was amazing. To be completely honest, it was cool as fuck. And there was so much behind-the-scenes drama. One day I’ll tell that story…”
Whether it's filming a behind-the-curtain look at some of the world’s biggest artists or photographing them, Kaito loves to document and capture a moment in time for others, “and for the future.” He does however struggle occasionally with perfectionism and the high standards he sets for himself, finding difficulty in conceptualising something that he will love once it’s been done - and visualising such an image in his head before shooting.
Taking a step back from his own work, Kaito expresses excitement at the “endless inspiration literally at your fingertips” that can be found online nowadays. With thousands of directors and photographers posting new content every minute of every day, you can curate an online feed that serves your goals and constantly provides you with creative stimuli. “You swipe and there’s someone you’re following who is super creative,” he says. Some of these inspirational artists include American photographer Annie Leibovitz “for her legacy and body of work”; Kaito’s friends like photographer and videographer Gibson Hazard “for his cutting-edge work and longevity” and director Onda “for the endless waves of his ideas and advanced thinking”; Ian Pons Jewell “for his experimentation”; Tyler Mitchell, whose work “speaks for itself”; and, “of course,” David La Chappelle.
He says, “Seeing all the great work that’s being released today inspires me. And there’s such a big space in this metaverse for sharing my own voice, my own angle, my own perspective on an artist and my vision for a brand. That’s what gets me excited. All these stories to tell.”
Now based in Los Angeles, Kaito enjoys nothing more than spending time with the one thing that has changed his whole world since acquiring it during the pandemic - his Golden Doodle, Zieke. But even in his spare time, the photographer always has creativity and work on his mind. For him, it’s not just about creating something for now, but something for the future that will survive and carry his name; a lasting body of work - most of which the exciting young creative is yet to bring to life.
“Legacy. Building my body of work. Leaving something behind. Endless inspiration. So many stories to tell. So many ideas. I haven’t even scratched the surface.”