Blog - Carla Coulson
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Want To Take Photos Full of Heart Without Figuring It Out On Your Own?

Puglia Workshop

Dear Friends,

I love photography! It has brought me all the joy and reward I have in my life today.

I have gone back through so many of my different phases with photography to understand the process of learning so I can be a better teacher.

One of the things that I love to relive is how I started to take photos with conviction, photos that made me stop in my tracks in the darkroom when they appeared, photos that had soul and a lot of heart. The photos that were no longer capturing a scene but were capturing life and a story.

Puglia Workshop

Here’s what I have learnt:

To take photos full of heart you need to master the basics of photography, understand composition, shutter speed and ISO then you need to know who you are!!

Waddya mean I can hear you saying?  You need to dial into who you are as a person, to be awake to life and the moments that touch you, that mean something to you, that you want to capture in all their beauty.

To do this you need to know your values, what you stand for, what excites you, what motivates you and the wonderful thing is to profoundly know this stuff you can’t do it from your lounge-room chair. You have to get out there amongst life and open yourself and your heart. You need to decide to be available to take the next step and channel all those photos that are stilling calling you but you just can’t capture.

Puglia Workshop

Life and situations call and you have to be willing to risk a little of you every day and in every photo and when you risk a little of yourself (and I don’t mean getting beaten up by a gang) the universe rewards you with magic.

Risking something might look like asking a stranger to take their photo, taking a different route in a familiar neighbourhood, booking a holiday to a new destination or doing something you have only dreamed about doing but never done. Risking might be standing in the one place for 30 mins waiting for the perfect moment, it might be telling your husband it’s your time and leave them to prepare breakfast and go for a morning walk.

Puglia Workshop

Teaching manual photography requires patience and time, my true love is teaching something else. It’s teaching the next step, how to see, how to feel, how to take an idea, an image, a story and give it wings.

Puglia Workshop

Last week I flew half way around the world to Hawaii to take my learning to a next step and yes I could have muddled through and figured some of it out on my own but I loved being catapulted to a new level with new learning and in a group. What I have learnt not only from teaching photography but being in a group is that you learn just as much from the group as you do from the teachers.

These photos were taken in beautiful Puglia in Italy that has everyone around the world with their knickers in a knot (my Aunty loved this expression and I thought of her today) where I will be taking a group of photographers to a new level in their photography.

Puglia Workshop

Our Classroom in Martina Franca ready for the photographers

If you feel like risking a little, living a lot and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to take photos you only dared to take, we would love you to join us.

You can watch this video to see a little spirit of my previous Puglia workshop.

Please feel free to contact me at carla@carlacoulson.com or read all the details HERE.

There will be friendship, learning, delish food and beauty to fill your heart. You can read what the previous workshop had to say HERE. 

It’s the trip of a lifetime.

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Carla Coulson In Harper’s Bazaar

harpers bazaar, carla coulson, italian beaches, photographer, photographer life,

Dear Friends,

I was so honoured and chuffed to be featured in this month’s Harper’s Bazaar, one of my favourite magazines.

When the gorgeous gang at Harper’s sent me the layout for the article, it looked like a visionboard I made for my life  years ago, the only thing it isn’t a visionboard, they are real photos of me and ones I took and it is my life. Yippee..

I saw the most beautiful article recently written by Arnold Schwarzenegger on all the people who have helped him create the success in his life and I felt like he was reading my mind… so many people have helped me throughout the years including the marvellous folk at Harper’s Bazaar.

Arnie wrote:

 “Every time I give a speech at a business conference, or speak to college students, or do a Reddit AMA, someone says it.

“Governor/Governator/Arnold/Arnie/Schwarzie/Schnitzel (depending on where I am), as a self-made man, what’s your blueprint for success?” Arnie wrote “They’re always shocked when I thank them for the compliment but say, “I am not a self-made man. I got a lot of help.

It is true that I grew up in Austria without plumbing. It is true that I moved to America alone with just a gym bag. And it is true that I worked as a bricklayer and invested in real estate to become a millionaire before I ever swung the sword in Conan the Barbarian.

But it is not true that I am self-made. Like everyone, to get to where I am, I stood on the shoulders of giants. My life was built on a foundation of parents, coaches, and teachers; of kind souls who lent couches or gym back rooms where I could sleep; of mentors who shared wisdom and advice; of idols who motivated me from the pages of magazines (and, as my life grew, from personal interaction).”

I too stood on the shoulder’s of giants. In my case there have been so many sets of helping hands from art directors saying yes to a pitch or commissioning me to do a story, from publishers believing in a book idea or an assistant pointing out something I wasn’t seeing.

From a friend reading a first draft of my book and suggesting slight changes to all the wonderful people who bought it! And just like Arnie I too have mentors, people I look up to, ask for advice and help guide me through this magical thing called life and creativity.

There hasn’t been a day I haven’t thanked the people who have helped me and the people in my community, they are the people who made this happen for me.

So, THANK-YOU TO YOU for reading this, for opening this email and being part of my community and huge thanks to Harper’s Bazaar. Don’t forget to grab the latest issue.

I couldn’t do it without you.

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So You Think You Can’t Take Photos?

carla coulson, photography workshops

Dear Folks,

I am suffering from jet lag in Maui and always love these quiet moments in the middle of the night to reflect.

So you think you can’t take photos?

That’s what I thought my whole life. Even though I was confident at most sports I felt incredibly embarrassed around creative people because I was convinced I didn’t have a creative bone in my body.

I have learnt we are all creative. Creativity only comes when you stop and give something time. When you try and fail and try again. Creativity is for everyone, it isn’t for a group of chosen ones who have come out of a smart design school, it’s the way humanity has been since we did our first cave painting and you too can access that creativity if you chose.

I had dipped my toe in the creative pool over the years long before I became a photographer but with no startling results, quite the opposite. She who went on to become a photographer for the best part of 20 years and work with Harper’s Bazaar, Gourmet Traveller and Vogue E & T and published 8 books with Penguin was the only person who failed in my evening photography school back in my late 20’s. I managed to develop a roll of film with no photos on it and the humiliation of a class of people looking at my empty roll was enough to deter me from going back.

So instead of persevering, scratching the surface and giving photography another go, I quit.

When I picked up a camera and signed up for photography school in Florence in the year 2000, I was a total novice. I had spent my adult life working in an office and I was starting from scratch. At that time, I didn’t know the history of photography or of art, I didn’t know any of the big photographers that had shaped our story and who would later inspire me. I had never persevered with any art form or become proficient at anything so here I was in my 35th year as green as kid in primary school except I was in Florence Italy surrounded by the art of Michelangelo and Botticelli.

Learning photography in the darkroom, on the streets of Florence and in the classroom meant that I had to get my hands dirty. I had to scratch the surface, go deeper, through numerous layers of learning, of feeling frustrated and uncomfortable. I had to go out of my comfort zone daily to interact with people who I wanted to photograph and more than ever before I challenged myself creatively and artistically. I had to stick with it to get good at it.

There was so much to learn, so many photographer’s names and techniques. For those of you who have ever learned a second language this is how photography felt for me. It was a language I could see and even feel but I couldn’t say it yet. The idea in my head wasn’t coming out on film just like learning a new language. There are nights when images rolled around in my head just the same way I would practise a phrase in a new language but when you open your mouth or in my case, my shutter, they just didn’t look the same on film or sound the way I saw them in my head. There were days I wanted to throw my camera against the wall yelling ‘speak’.

It’s this ‘teaching a new language’ that I love so much with photography. I have lived the frustrations I know how it feels on the inside when your expectations don’t match your results. I know what you want to say and I love helping folks say it.

Teaching manual photography requires patience and time, my true love is teaching something else. It’s teaching the next step, how to see, how to feel, how to take an idea, an image, a story and give it wings. Releasing the person from this ‘language prison’ to have the tools to speak and so the pictures they want to take come out as they see them!

That’s all, should get some sleep now.

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PS: if you want to get out of photography jail and feel like the adventure of your life there is one place left on my photography workshop in Puglia in June.. all details HERE or you can join my workshop list HERE

Bring Summer To You – 15% Off All Beach Prints

positano beach, amalfi coast, carla coulson prints, fine art prints, beach beds, holiday inspo

All photos copyright Carla Coulson

Sweet Folks,

You know I love summer and I decided if summer wasn’t ready for me in Europe I would go chase the sun.

On Monday I head to Maui for the first time and I’ll be leaving behind grey skies and jumpers for kaftans and bikinis. I am giddy with excitement, with that feeling that travel brings and the hope of summer and the sea.

And boy do I have the wardrobe for it, did I say KAFTANS!

positano beach, amalfi coast, carla coulson prints, fine art prints, beach beds, holiday inso, capri, la fontelina

positano beach, amalfi coast, carla coulson prints, fine art prints, beach beds, holiday inso, la scogliera

All photos copyright Carla Coulson

To celebrate heading into summer I want you to have the opportunity to bring summer into your life.

I’m giving you a 15% discount on my beach prints for 4 days only finishing Thursday 16th March 2017.

With the code: lovesummer you will receive 15% discount on checkout.

You can start shopping HERE

See you on the beach!

 

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From Photographer to Artist

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Dear Friends,

I am hoping to start a Podcast soon called The Creative Career Backstage very soon which will have lots of interviews with creatives and their keys to success. In the interim I wanted to share this lovely interview with Katie Graham.

I met Katie Graham when she attended one of my photography workshops almost 4 years ago in Sydney so it was an incredible surprise to see that she was launching a solo exhibition as a watercolour artist in Hong Kong this week (see below for details).

Her work is stunning and I was fascinated how she made the jump so quickly from one medium to the other and with such mastery.

I will let Katie tell her story.  

What was the catalyst for your switch from photographer to painter?

After many years of photography, I was at turning point in my life and the technology required to create a digital picture was frustrating me. The computers and cameras began to feel like a barrier. In my search for a new creative outlet I discovered the world of watercolour. The ability to pick up a paint brush and create a picture with my own hands, was magical.  And now I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Are you self-taught or did you train with someone special?

I started by having lessons with an incredibly special person who is still very much my mentor today. Initially she shared the watercolour techniques with me. Over the years, she became a life confidant who believed in me and inspired me. After a couple of years of formal sessions, I found that I preferred to paint by myself in my own studio. I needed the physical and mental space and freedom to experiment and make mistakes. From these mistakes I was able to learn and grow as an artist so that I could progress to a stage where I was able paint the pictures that came from my heart.

 

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What have been some of the big hurdles to overcome?

Learning patience has been a very big hurdle for me. Learning the techniques of watercolour has taken many years.  As a watercolour artist it’s essential to have intention and purpose with every brushstroke because you can’t erase what you don’t like.  Watercolour is a medium where the artist is not responsible for every mark on the page. If we are patient and respect the process, the most beautiful “happy accidents” can happen which create unique marks on the paper and give the artwork life and soul. But this only happens if we can practice patience. It is like meditating.

Learning to be simple has been a very big hurdle for me too. Simplicity in art and life is actually extremely difficult.  As the saying goes “the most complicated skill is to be simple”.  For years I had way too much information in every painting and it took me a long time to understand that the reason I didn’t like the finished artwork was because it was not simple enough. As an artist the most important decision is not want to put in the painting, but what to leave out.

Why elephants and animals?

My art is born out of a love and nostalgia for my first home, being South Africa.  For me these animals represent everything that is beautiful about the world. They are so perfectly created in every way and I am inspired by every shape, colour and tone in their details and features.  I love painting their eyes, because it is like taking someone’s portrait. Their eyes tell a story. I allow the eyes to create a connection and intensity and give the animal a life and soul that goes beyond just a physical form.

You teamed with The Elephant Society, how did this come about? 

The Elephant Society auctioned one of my artworks at their “Hope for Wildlife” Ball in November last year. We have since aligned in the hope that we can raise awareness and discourage purchase of Ivory in China. At the current rate, elephants will be extinct within 15 years.  Hong Kong is a pivotal city within the illegal ivory trade and to prevent elephants from becoming extinct, people must stop buying ivory.  If there no demand for ivory there will be no market for it.

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Your colour palette is so soft and feminine, was this a conscious choice?

I have always had a love affair with soft muted colours. And over the years my paintings seem to have evolved into soft muted impressions of animals. But this has been a process and a very subconscious one. In the beginning I experimented with so many vibrant colours. But these paintings never survived my own curation of my work.   When I step back and look at anything I have made whether it’s an artwork I have painted,  a photograph I have created,  or even an outfit I have chosen to wear, there is always a consistency. The heart of the artist is always reflected in their work.

You open your first solo show in Hong Kong this week, do you have any words for someone who is doubting their artistic abilities?

Believe in yourself. And work hard. Nothing in life comes easily. Dedicating yourself to creativity can be incredibly hard and frustrating and there are plenty of dark days.  But the moments when the magic happens and you are happy with something you have created, is one of the biggest joys possible! So if your heart is telling you to do it, then do it! But you have to be truly committed.

What has been the top 3 personal learnings from this adventure?

Be bold and take risks. On and off the paper. When the risks pay off it is so rewarding.

Slow down and be grateful for everything – it’s the foundation of happiness.

To always surround myself with positive people. Their energy is so infectious!

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Is there one smart move whether it be a connection, your marketing, waiting to be ready, perfecting your craft or being visible that helped you further your career??

When I started as an artist, I asked a friend of mine who was achieving great success in his career, what his number one piece of advice to me would be. He said he had asked many successful artists over the years, exactly the same thing –  And consistently over the years, all of their answers had been exactly the same. “To achieve success, you have to treat art as a business”.  So that includes, marketing plans and mission statements. Pricing strategies and long term and short term goals etc etc. I have in no way achieved this yet, but I can appreciate that the only way that we can dedicate our lives to our art is if we can in some way make it commercial. Otherwise there is no way it is financially feasible to continue – especially living in a place like Hong Kong where the cost of living is so expensive!

If you are lucky enough to be in Hong Kong this week you can see Katie’s Show here.

AFRICAN SPIRIT

THE CAT STREET GALLERY

50 TUNG STREET, SHEUNG WAN, HONG KONG

WWW.THECATSTREETGALLERY.COM

Thursday 9th March all day.  6:30-8:30pm Drinks & Canapés

Otherwise you can follow her on Instagram or check out her work here.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams

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