Hightail is celebrating this summer’s festival of futebol in Brazil by showcasing a series of stunning images by Brazilian photographer Caio Vilela on our home page. We caught up with him recently to talk about his biggest inspirations, which team will win the World cup and why soccer is like ballet.
How did you first get into photography?
Back in 1994, I was travelling a lot as a backpacker and taking photographs for myself. A journalist friend of mine saw those images (slide films!) and invited me to collaborate with him about travel destinations for Sao Paulo-based national newspaper Jornal da Tarde.
Who is your biggest photography inspiration?
My biggest inspirations are the North American painters from 19th century. Artists like Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church and Thomas Cole travelled the world during a pre-photography era and portrayed North and South America’s natural landscapes on huge canvases with such an accuracy and beautiful light that all photographers would love to catch nowadays.
Describe your style of photography
I like to focus on colorful stuff that’s filled with information, movement and energy. I was never into conceptual emptiness in art photography. I enjoy and want to produce explosive, high voltage images.
Why do you like photographing football?
Football is so dynamic and fun to shoot. Every match has a different rhythm and mood. Some are pure fun, some are fast and serious. Every time I visit a football pitch there is a surprise waiting for me, whether it’s bucolic and empty or there’s a dust-raising match happening.
Are you excited to have the World Cup take place in your home country?
I am very excited that Brazil is hosting the World Cup, although I agree with most Brazilians who are not happy with the country investing in circuses and not education, health, employment, security, etc.
Who will win the World Cup?
I’d love to see Uruguay or some African country win it!
What else inspires you?
Ballet! To me taking pictures during a soccer match is at the same time similar and the total opposite of photographing a dance presentation. Both are an exercise of agility, timing and blending in with the environment, with no interference. During a ballet, the lens points to a small limited space, where choreographed predictable moves will take place. While in a soccer pitch, action is everywhere. Anarchy and improvisation runs the show and that can drive the most experienced photographer dizzy. You have to foresee the right moment to press the button, predict when one body will unblock the sight of another, make a split second decision to capture the scene.
Just like dancers, amateur soccer players will probably not run, jump, fall on the ground and bring out their bodies best performance for more than one hour. Whenever I come across a thrilling spontaneous match, I have to run and hopefully produce two or three really good pictures. You can never tell if that game has just started or is about to come to an end. I approach the pitch like an eager striker and nervous as a defender, willing to see the ball being kicked towards the goal like a forward. At the end of the match, I am sweating and covered in dust, feeling like a player who has just scored a goal.
What fascinates me most about the set of images is that I have registered golden moments of some anonymous talented kids. All these boys have now an opportunity to shine in the pages of a book, just like they shine every single day in a dirt pitch, away from the eyes of a talent scout. The plays displayed in these pictures are the result of pure chance. They are here because there was a photographer in that pitch at the very moment they were playing.
Where else can we see your work?
You can see my work on my website. I also have a book called Futebol-Arte do Oiapoque ao Chuí, which you can buy online and has a preface by the great Brazilian player, Zico. And of course, you can see a new photograph every day at www.hightail.com and on Highly Inspired.