Carla Coulson

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Carla Coulson, Photographer

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We’ve all experienced it before, that tenacious voice inside our gut, trying to tell us something is wrong –or in certain cases that something is very right. Some of us squash it quickly before it reaches its crescendo, while others entertain its logic for a moment, before letting it subside and forgetting about it. And then there are some of us who listen, and their lives are often turned on their heads because of it…

Fifteen years ago, a voice inside Carla Coulson was telling her she wasn’t living the life she was supposed to be living. Accepting its incessant call, in a swift and brave move she decided to listen and moved to Italy. Fast-forward over a decade and Carla is now based in Paris, she’s a distinguished photographer who has published 3 books of her own, has collaborated on a further 5 books and has worked with a string of Australian and international magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Entertaining and Travel, Gourmet Traveller, to name a few. Here is Carla’s story adrift…


Before you moved to Europe you had been living the ‘wrong life’ for most of your adult life – what did this look like?

 It looked very different! I was trying to fit myself into a life that wasn’t mine. There were so many things that didn’t resonate with me including what I was doing, how I was living and how much of the truth I was willing to show. I had a business that I wasn’t passionate about and I feel this was a big part of ‘the wrong life’ –  it kept me from finding the people I could relate to and who I had things in common with. When I was younger it seemed to matter less but as I hit my thirties many questions kept coming up again and again and I felt like I was living a meaningless life with no passion, no excitement and no love.


So you left Sydney in search of the right life for you – it sounds like you found it! How did you make it work?

I made it work because when I arrived in Italy, I felt so deeply attached to the place and the way of living that I wanted to stay. When I found my way to photography, I did everything in my power to make it happen. I believe because I put myself in a vulnerable situation and wanted it with all of my heart and I took the steps to make it happen, the universe continued to show up with the answers. There was so much to learn; a new country, a new language and the art of photography – there were many challenges but I felt like I was truly living life, with all the emotions of the spectrum. 


How do you find juggling your time between France and Italy?

In the beginning it broke my heart to leave Italy.  I had finally found my place in life, I met the love of my life, had my work published in magazines I loved and I was just about to have my first book published, so it felt like being torn away from the brightest moment in my life. My relationship with Paris suffered in the early years because of this, but now I love knowing both of these places so well and I feel eternal gratitude for having the chance to live in two such special places.


How has photography changed your life?

It has connected me to life. It has allowed me to look at the minute detail and see the beauty, where before I would have missed it. It has connected me to people, pushed me out of my comfort zone almost daily and made me grow, learn, feel and be a better person. Photography has taught me patience and that some things are worth waiting for!


Life as a freelancer gives you freedom, but this often comes with less security.  Can you share some advice for making your freedom more secure?

Yes, this is one of my favourite subjects. I think for many people the life of a freelancer is very fearful, particularly if they have come from a regular pay check and a place of comfort (that’s where I came from too). One of the things I have always done is build a routine, create office hours and schedule things so that my day doesn’t feel open ended or I don’t end up overwhelmed. In the beginning, one of the best things I did was work with magazines who became regular clients, some magazines I worked for a couple of times a month so it became a regular money stream. The books were another step to making my life more solid and creating another money stream. This worked really well for me. I would advise other freelancers to do a similar thing, to create regular money streams or ongoing clients so you are not always searching around for the next job.


You have worked with some of the top publications in Australia and internationally – what do you think it is about your photographs that appeal to people?

The emotional connection. One of the big changes that happened to me when I left my old life was I was no longer frightened of being me and that meant letting out all the emotions that came so easily to me. It has always been important for me that my photographs tell a story and have an emotional connection.


You also teach photography workshops, what do you love about this aspect of your job?

I love seeing others take the information and run with it. See their eyes light up and the same crazy passion that I felt when I first started.


Do you believe in fate?

Ohh, I believe in it all! I believe in the power of the individual and how they have the chance to create the life they want. I believe in the power of positive thinking and how we can manifest our own lives if we take action. I would like to think of fate as a message from the universe and we have the choice to do something about it or not. I don’t believe in bad luck or someone being jinxed, I believe we have the power to change our path.


If you could give 3 pieces of advice to your sixteen-year-old self, what would they be?

  1. Love yourself, it’s the greatest gift or power a person can give themselves. Everything follows thereafter. I put this piece of advice off till I was 35! I spent so many years comparing myself to others and I always came up short in my eyes. As I have photographed people for the past 15 years I’ve really had the chance to see real beauty; it’s something that radiates from someones soul. 
  2. Everything you need is within you. I spent so many years looking for love from the outside only to learn we are born with endless amounts of love.
  3. Trust your intuition! This is a big one for a sixteen year old but we spend so much of our lives doing what we think we should do. Listen to your gut when you decide things, if you feel a little uneasy or sick at the idea of doing something – there is your answer. Don’t waste years of your life doing what others think you should do, do what makes your heart sing. If you are truly passionate about something, you will find a way to make it work.


Any exciting projects on the horizon for 2016?

I am currently doing a 12 month life coaching and business course so I can help others make the changes they want in their lives. Changing my life has had such a huge impact on every part of who I am, I feel to help someone else live this would be the greatest gift I could give someone.


How do you relate to the word ‘adrift’?

It’s such a beautiful word, brings up so many thoughts and feelings of calm, of being lost, of letting go and the feeling you get when you meditate.

Carla’s Top 3 Travel Destinations

Carla Puglia

/ Puglia

My hubby’s from Puglia so I have been lucky to be introduced to this great land through his eyes and family. Puglia teaches you to slow down, take a second look at it’s beauty and history and never get up from the table!


Carla Greece

/ Greek Islands

I went for the first time 7 years ago and have been back every year. It’s the old fashioned ways, kindness of the people, slow pace of life and divine water.


Carla Amalfi

/ Amalfi Coast

I got bitten by the Amalfi Coast on my first visit 15 years ago, its my happy place; divine people, great food and scenery to inspire anyone jaded by life.



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