Carles Carabi Photographs Messi the GOAT
Who is the GOAT?
We’re not talking farm animals or the inhabitants of craggy mountains, but instead the “Greatest of All Time,” typically given to an athlete who proves themselves to be the top of their sport. Often used to describe Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, and Serena Williams, Paper Magazine recently dubbed Lionel Messi as the GOAT in football (known as “soccer” to Americans). They did so on the cover of their latest issue with photography by Carles Carabi who went literal with the shoot: he photographed the football player with more than a couple hairy friends.
The goats (not including Messi) that Carles photographed number by the dozen and were all active on set. Carles worked with veterinarians and animal handlers through La Granja Natura, a farm in Barcelona, to ensure that all the goat buddies would remain healthy and suffer no harm. The fact that Carles was able to wrangle that many goats at once is no minor accomplishment: the photographs show a measure of solemnity and grace – with a hint of pleasure as Messi himself was able to have some fun with the animals. The rule in entertainment is: never work with children or animals, because they'll always steal the show. But with Carles' expert composition, he draws the eye exactly where it should be at all times.
Thanks to Carles, whether Messi is dressed for the game or not he fits right into the herd of GOATS which is exactly where he belongs.
Carles Carabi Escapes to Bali with MalaMadre
MalaMadre was created as a custom motorcycle brand in Bali out of necessity. Dirk Goetz wanted to ride something more robust than a scooter over the roads of Indonesia so he found a 2002 Suzuki Thunder 250cc and fixed it up with customizations in his friend’s garage. That bike caught the eye of a new customer, and the whole thing snowballed over the last two years into a bustling business of creating bespoke bikes from some of the most respected names in the industry. Carles Carabi heard about the company through a friend of his that was a MalaMadre customer and he had an idea. “I told him that I wanted to go to Bali and shoot the bikes,” says Carles. “We offered a brief to the guys from Malamadre and they loved it and they invited me to Bali to go there so we flew there and we did a photoshoot!” Everything came together naturally, but once they got to Bali things worked a little less smoothly. Mainly because of the weather.
Carles knew that the blockbuster images would come from a beachside shoot, but a couple elements had to hit together all at the same time. They needed it to be low tide so there was plenty of wet sand, they needed the sun to be setting to get the right kind of light, and, of course, it couldn’t be raining. “It was raining every day, so we always had difficulties shooting during the sunset because it was raining every day at that time,” says Carles. “The low tide wasn’t every day at the time of the sunset so depending on the day there wasn’t a beach we could go with the bikes,” but it all came together in the last possible moment. “The day before I left was the last chance we had to shoot it.,” Carles explains. They only had an hour to make it work and were never going to be able to come back and try again. They planned out the whole hour just to be safe, but when they started working, instinct took over and they just had fun. “We tried to make a plan, because there were three bikes, but as soon as they were riding they forgot about everything and they were just riding it was kind of crazy.”
Carles also got some phenomenal shots of the bikes being ridden on the long roads through Indonesia, buffeted by the tropical forests. Capturing these images was tricky because Carles had to strap himself to the back of a scooter that his friend drove into oncoming traffic. But they got what they needed. “It was risky, not very scary, but it was risky,” Carles explains. “The roads were open so there was traffic all the time. To shoot them we needed to be riding on the wrong side of the road, so every time a car was coming we had to cross the line, and go back and forth like that all the time. It was a bit of adrenaline.”
Carles Carabi Dives Right In
On any given week, Carles Carabi is photographing soccer stars for ESPN, yogis for adidas, or explosive imagery for Budweiser. These projects make for incredible imagery but there’s more for Carles to explore. “Diving is a beautiful sport, I always liked it and I always watch it on TV during the Olympics,” says Carles. “They pose well in the air, there’s action, there’s movement, and it’s easy to compose. It’s a beautiful sport.” He wanted to bring the sport to life in a personal project, something that would be free from the expectations or constraints of a client. So he teamed up with Spanish diver and model Claudia Gilabert, photographing her during training and practice to get a full picture of the diver’s process.
Diving is a unique sport, similar to some in Track & Field, where athletes get only a single moment to compete. When they jump off the board or off the platform, all of their work is expressed in the distance between the board and the water. It’s a compact time, and the focus of all their training. “There’s a lot of preparation and years of training for just one or two seconds of execution so I asked her how it works with the preparation. I wanted to know if before she jumps if she does the whole jump in her mind at the time, or how does it work,” says Carles. Through his images he offers us both frozen explosive moments of Gilabert’s dives, and the focus that surrounds her before she jumps off the board. “The duality is quiet and concentration, and then action. It was important to show both sides,” Carles says.
Carles has made a name for himself by shooting incredibly famous and wealthy athletes all over the world. It’s afforded him a particular angle on the sports industry but he wants to open it up to more figures. There are sports and athletes all over the world that get almost no coverage compared to the most popular athletes, and Carles takes it as his responsibility to boost those that are relatively hidden. “I find it important to give visibility to other sports besides soccer or basketball, and specially feminine sports. I think they don't get the attention that they deserve,” Carles says. “Divers train hours and hours every day for many years and they don't make any money with it. Even if they represent their country in the Olympic Games and win a medal, they will never make a life of it. It's a lot of work and sacrifice for ‘nothing.’ I think it's unfair.” As an artist and photographer, Carles is uniquely poised with his audience to bring attention to parts of the industry he’d like to shed more light on.
Carles Carabi Pictures Greatness for ESPN
When looking at Carles Carabi’s portraits of Germany’s goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, on the cover of ESPN Magazine the first thing you may notice is the intensity. It takes a certain kind of person to be a goalkeeper. They’re the last line of defense for any team, and use their bodies as blockades to stop the other team from getting a win. They throw themselves at balls sailing through the air at incredible speeds, set in motion by some of the greatest athletes in the world, and take the blame for any failure. Some say you have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper.
One thing is for sure, though, Neuer is intense. And that’s why Carles photographed him the way he did, because that was the guy who showed up in his studio, that’s the energy that he brought with him. “ESPN wanted a very intense portrait and then also because he’s German he’s a serious guy,” says Carles. “He came to me with a really serious attitude, really serious, really straight forward looking at me in the eye.” Carles’ job as a photographer is to witness life and offer what he sees to the rest of us. He becomes our proxy, showing us moments that would otherwise be hidden from us.
Carles’ portraits are super honest. A part of that success is that Carles was able to get authentic moments from Neuer during their short, 17-minute shoot. But another part of it was that Carles keeps a light hand when it comes to retouching. We get to see the texture of Neuer’s skin, and the elements of his visage that may be called “imperfections” to some, but are a part of the reality of this man. We’re really looking at his face and that’s important to Carles. “I’m not a big fan of very retouched images, I like to keep it as realistic as possible,” Carles says. “I like to keep scars and hair and all those kinds of things because that’s how the person looks so that’s the way the photograph should look. Otherwise they’ll look like a plastic person… It makes it more believable, more real for the people who are reading it.” It’s important for us to remember that our stars are real people. At a time when we deify the famous, reminding us that they’re human lifts us all up and helps us relate to them. When we remember that we can all achieve greatness it opens up a world of possibilities. Sometimes the portal that ushers us into that world is a single photograph.
adidas Empowers Women with Carles Carabi
As February dawns, we’re knee deep into 2016 and now is as good a time as any to check in with your New Year’s resolutions. Carles Carabi, the preeminent athletic lifestyle photographer, and new addition to B&A’s roster, has a new campaign out with adidas to inspire women to dig in deep and find the athletes inside themselves. “The main reason for the campaign was to make any woman in the world, on the planet, to feel able to do sports,” explains Carles. “They don’t need to be super fit or super stars. Adidas wanted to show strong women and they wanted to show powerful women.” It was all about empowering these ladies and creating imagery that was inspiring. There is a whole world of potential athletes, and anyone’s movement towards that kind of a lifestyle is a good one: physical health is something that must be taken seriously. So it’s not hesitancy that should get in the way of someone’s long term health. Adidas wanted to reach out and take reticence out of the equation. “It doesn’t matter how you look, you should do sports because it’s good, it’s going to make you feel better and make you feel stronger and it’s going to give you energy,” explains Carles. “The idea was to shoot normal girls but girls who have been training hard and have reached the level they want to reach.” These are women who understand the struggle of starting from scratch.
For the campaign, they cast women who aren’t professional athletes; instead, they are women who started their physical training with the intention of reshaping their lives and have succeeded. They have worked and struggled for every inch of their achievement. Carles normally shoots professionals but even though these women have taken on their physical health on their own time, Carles used everything he’s learned working with world-class athletes. “I’m used to shooting with athletes, professional players, and they never have time,” Carles explains. “If you don’t get the shots in those opportunities you lose them. So I’m used to being fast and I try to keep the shooting really fast with a lot of rhythm. That’s the secret: to do it for real, really quick, and very active.”
Carles is best known for shooting athletes and there’s a reason. Any photographer can choose their focus and what they work on, but Carles finds himself attracted to athletic photography because of the energy and the aesthetics. “Athletes look good, they have nice shapes and strong bodies, and they have a lot of control over their movement,” says Carles. “Athletes look very powerful when they’re in their environment doing their own thing. That’s what I like about them.” That control offers a collaborative energy where the photographer and the model can push boundaries of what’s possible and where they can go. Carles is always looking to extend his reach and find that when he works with athletes, they’re willing to go there right along with him.