Blog - Carla Coulson
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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.


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.


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!




From Photographer to Artist


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.




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.



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!



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.





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





Venice and How I Turned a Negative Travel Moment Into A Positive

1 Venice

Dear Travellers,

I love Venice and will come up with absolutely any excuse to go. So this February I had the most wondrous excuse to meet two go-getter women in Venice to make a plan for their beautiful creative businesses.

I was super excited, packed my bags, bought special gifts and dreamt of all the wonderful things I would see and do with them in Venice.

When I arrived at the airport there was just one hitch. No suitcase. Being a paranoid photographer I had everything I needed for our meetings in my backpack but my clothes, gifts and packs of polaroid were lost somewhere between Paris and Venice.

2 Venice

My heart sank, I spent almost an hour at the lost and found luggage desk anxing over whether my bag would ever turn up and what did this mean.

Eventually I got out of the airport and decided to do something I do whenever I feel down, I asked myself ‘what good could come of this’? what could I learn, how could this negative become a positive?

3 Venice

So I started making a list of positives, I no longer had the bag to deal with, which meant I was super mobile with my little backpack, so I decided to gift myself the whole afternoon and walk to San Marco from the train station just like I did on my first trip when I was 21.

It took all of two seconds in Venice, looking down a small alley, glancing in the pastry shop windows which were exactly the way they were 30 years ago.  I no longer cared about my bag, I felt young and free and the most fortunate girl in the world to be in this marvellous place WITHOUT my suitcase. I decided to mess around and take some photos expressing the wonder and marvel I felt the first time I arrived in Venice full of wonder.

4 Venice

I walked, I stalked and only took photos on long exposures for absolutely no reason but the pure joy of being in Venice without a suitcase, free as a bird for an afternoon and the wonder of this magical place before my eyes.

I thanked the folks at Easyjet for sending my bag to Air France with no ticket, less stuff means more freedom.

My bag turned up the night before I left, just in time to give the ladies I was with my little gift and take it back to Paris.


So thanks to a lost bag I had a wonderful experience. A slow meander through Venice letting time tick by without the feeling of rushing, being productive or having a goal.

Here are a couple of tips to turn a negative into a positive.

  1. Keep it in perspective
  2. Do the necessary and then ask yourself what good could come from this?
  3. What could you learn?
  4. Give yourself a period of time and change your state
  5. Throw on your favourite music (use a headset if it might be embarrassing) and feel how your mood changes.

Sending you good travel vibes





PS: If you love travel and would like to up-level your travel photography you may like to join me in Puglia this June 2017. All details here.