So You Think You Can't Take Photos? - Carla Coulson
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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

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