Carolina Arantes

Women in modern European clothing walking in front of a group of women in traditional African dress in this photo by Carolina Arantes.
In this image from Canon Ambassador Carolina Arantes' First Generation series, the three young women in the foreground are dressed in a modern French style, whereas the older women in the back are in more traditional African dress. "This perfectly represents the shift to a more European lifestyle for the younger generation, those who are living after the first wave of immigration," says Carolina. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM) at 1/1000 sec, f/10 and ISO800. © Carolina Arantes

Canon Ambassador Carolina Arantes' compelling images are captured in either Europe or America, but the difficult conversations they provoke are relevant worldwide.

Carolina's delicate yet poignant imagery explores social, cultural and even political relationships across a range of issues in Brazil where she grew up, and her newly adopted nation of France. "I think there is something cinematic about my images, but they are always about reality," Carolina begins. "I came to documentary photography as a natural path after my journalistic background, and that's because I'm a very curious person. I love to get involved in different realities, discover stories and hear people's experiences. Life is so amazing and diverse."

Canon Ambassador Carolina Arantes.

Location: Paris, France

Specialist areas: Documentary

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Carolina has compiled captivating portfolios, the images of which have appeared in publications such as Stern, The Guardian, The New York Times, LENS Blog, Le Monde, L'OBS, plus numerous exhibitions across Europe, South America and Africa. The first, Living To Leave, is a visual commentary on society's regard, or perhaps lack of it, for the elderly. It focuses on the Enclos Saint-Césaire Catholic care home in Arles, southern France, where Carolina spent a week photographing the residents.

"Living to Leave is a project I completed during a workshop with the VII Agency photographer, Christopher Morris. It was part of an exercise and, surprisingly, it became representative of my work and style. At the end of it, Chris gave me an informal prize for this work and asked me to be his assistant in France."

A cow shot against a dark background is showered with confetti in this photograph by Carolina Arantes.
This cow (from Carolina's project Holy Cow) is a high-class breeding animal entered into a Brazilian meat market. "She was showered in confetti because she had just been sold for $1,000,000," says Carolina. "Part of an Indian breed of 'sacred cows', she has instead become sacred to the economy of Brazil, with its huge focus on meat production." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/4 and ISO3200. © Carolina Arantes

For her second project, Holy Cow, which took her three years to complete, Carolina delved deep into Brazil's cattle industry. She explored the key players at the top of the country's biggest meat chains via a series of striking and thought-provoking images.

"Holy Cow aims to show how and by whom the quality of the meat we eat is decided in the worldwide meat industry," she says. "It asks important questions on the topics of power over genetics, environment, politics, globalisation and food. It touches upon many issues, as well as the historical process of Brazilian cattle breeding. I think the subject helps us to be conscious in our choices – to understand how important the meat industry is."

Women and children wearing party hats at a birthday celebration photographed by Carolina Arantes.
This is the birthday party of a third-generation immigrant in France. "It focuses on the descendants of African women and how their identities have been influenced by European values, as well as expressing a sense of ambiguity about where it was taken," says Carolina. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/4 and ISO6400. © Carolina Arantes

First Generation, Carolina's most recent body of work, documents the coming-of-age of the descendants of the African immigrants who moved to France in large numbers during the 1970s. "Identity is a very important question," says Carolina. "Who are we in this globalised era? People move and put down new roots. Witnessing a whole generation live under the construction of its own new identity in a traditional European country is something we should look at. Their experiences will open doors for the next generation of Afro-French citizens but also, and perhaps more importantly, for our society to reach another level of comprehension."

Based in Paris, but working between Europe and South America, Carolina has been buoyed by success at several prestigious awards, including the 2017 Firecracker Photographic Grant, and the Jean-Luc Lagardère Foundation Grant in 2015. "Each award and grant is an important support in the development of a personal project and its recognition," Carolina says. "Photography can be solitary work. The awards are important because they confirm that you are not alone, that there are others believing in the importance of your subject and the way you're expressing yourself."

A couple dance in this photograph by Carolina Arantes.
In Paris, it is a popular pastime for people of all ages to learn to swing dance to jazz music in bars and clubs. "Despite it being an American import, it has become a part of popular culture that transcends social groups," says Carolina. "Some people even like to dress up in 1930s clothes when going out to dance." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/4 and ISO12800. © Carolina Arantes

What attributes do you think are most important for becoming a successful photographer?

"Today most of us must do everything alone: research, finding contacts, shooting, editing, selling, publishing... so you have to be organised. A sense of marketing, knowing how to write a proper presentation, and being able to work from a budget are also important, if not paramount."

Do you have certain 'rules' that you stick to when you photograph strangers?

"Documentary photography is about being in close and intimate contact with other people's reality. So you must always respect the story, be polite, introduce yourself, observe more, talk less and not occupy too much space… you are talking about other people's lives and that is a responsibility."

What was the hardest thing for you to master in regards to photography and how did you overcome it?

"Editing my own images. Although I have improved a lot, I try to be more objective, more rational. I will often clear my mind and come back to an image, which unfortunately sometimes means giving up on some pictures."

What do you do in post-production?

"I actually do very little. I like the challenge of doing only the necessary and respect the limits I have on documentary pictures. The great thing about working only with professional, high-level equipment is that it allows you the freedom to improve your image without losing quality."

What type of lighting do you prefer to work with?

"I normally shoot using natural or available light, so when I know what I want to shoot, the first setting I program on my camera is the ISO."

One thing I know
Carolina Arantes

"When you arrive at a location you must be prepared. Ideally you'd have previewed it already so you know what you want from the shoot. Think about the kind of images you need to take and what images are important for you. Analyse where those situations will probably happen and decide whether you have the right light. But the most important thing when shooting documentary stories is to be flexible, as you will probably need to adapt. Be calm, don’t hurry while shooting, and be patient. Do listen to the meaning behind the words and be very empathic."

Instagram: @c_arantes

Twitter: @carola_arantes


LinkedIn: Carolina Arantes

Carolina Arantes' kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Carolina Arantes' kitbag.


Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Designed to perform in every situation, the EOS 5D Mark IV is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. "This camera is perfect for me as it covers all my main needs," says Carolina. "I love the freedom it gives me to work in low light with quality."

Canon EOS R

This cutting-edge, full-frame mirrorless camera sets new standards for modern photography with its in-built Digital Lens Optimizer and DIGIC 8 processing. "The camera viewer is really good, and the focus system is incredible," says Carolina. "Being able to choose any focus point in the whole image and directly from the screen makes everything so simple and fast."


Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

A versatile pancake lens with a fast f/2.8 maximum exposure ideal for low-light shooting. "This lens is a real joy because it's small, light and inexpensive," says Carolina.


Canon Speedlite 270EX II

A compact flash that can be attached or triggered remotely from the camera, enabling a range of creative lighting options. "I love the directness of this Speedlite, it's small but powerful," says Carolina.

Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

EOS R System adapters are unique and offer additional creative control, enabling photographers and filmmakers to use their existing EF and EF-S lenses with full compatibility and no loss in performance.

Light Diffuser

"A very practical flash diffuser waiting to be inflated," says Carolina.

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