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A human pyramid
A human pyramid | © David Oliete

Meet the Artist Capturing a New Side to the Human Pyramids of Catalonia

Picture of Tara Jessop
Updated: 1 May 2018
One of the most unique cultural traditions of Catalonia, castells are human towers which can sometimes reach death-defying heights. Photographer David Oliete has spent over 10 years trying to capture the incredible world of the castellers to shed light on the courage, skill and camaraderie of these performers.

Culture Trip: Tell us a little bit about yourself; what’s your background and how did you get started as a photographer?

David Oliete: I guess I had to be a photographer… At home, when I was a child, there was a camera all the time. My grandfather was a photographer and my mother is a photographer as well, so I guess at that time my future was expected to be linked to a camera. I understand ‘photography’ as a way to make people think. A way to tell stories, to understand what is going on around us: next to our neighbours, or far away home.

A human pyramid
A human pyramid | © David Oliete

CT: You did a series entitled Human Towers about the tradition of castells. What are they?

DO: The castells (human towers in Catalan) have been one of the most important cultural traditions in the region of Catalonia and have become part of the identity of Catalan people.

The castells are traditionally built-in festivities and competitions in the region of Catalonia in Spain. During these events, each team (known as colla) builds and dismantles its own human towers. For their success, a crowded and stunning base of hundreds of people needs to be previously perfectly set up.

One of the biggest human tower competitions in the world is named Concurs de Castells and takes place only once every two years in the city of Tarragona, with the participation of teams from all around the region.

Human towers being created
Human towers being created | © David Oliete