An Untold Chapter In Finding My Way To Photography

carla coulson by Loc Boyle

Moi by Loc Boye

It is easy as an adult to stop exploring. To arrive at a point in your life where your work and daily life routine takes over and the child and dreams within are forgotten.

It took some digging around, having time and experimenting for me to find the thing that got my heart galloping,  photography.

I wasn’t one of those lucky ones that knew from the minute they were born what they wanted to do in life, in fact I thought I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. My parents weren’t artists and we didn’t have a connection with the creative world so I was never exposed to the idea of being a photographer.

But when I knew I no longer wanted to live the life I was living I made that list of possible things to try. I dug into the recesses of my brain looking for things I loved or thought I might love.

George V Hotel Paris Carla Coulson

Copyright Carla Coulson for Simply You

I knew at the time my career wasn’t what I wanted but I wasn’t one hundred percent sure about what I did want to do. I made a list (as I do). It looked like this.

 Learn Italian

Work in the outback

Work for another company doing something I love

Take some time out to think about life

Go to Bali and check out options

Try a photography course

Find Love (thought I might as well write it down and let the universe know I was serious)

I decided to try as many things possible during a year to see if I could find what I was looking for.

Carla Coulson Rawlinna

Taken at Rawlinna and inspired by my time in the outback in WA copyright Carla Coulson

Working on a farm in Outback Western Australia was included on the list because I thought maybe it was city life that needed changing. I added working with a sports marketing team because I thought I needed to work with a different group of people than I had previously worked with, learning Italian was also jotted down because it was something I had always wanted to do. Photography had always been a passion so the list went on and on.

At the top I wrote Italy and of course included something else I was missing in my life, LOVE.

Through a friend I met ‘Doogs’ and I went to work on his farm in the outback in the heart of the Western Australian wheat belt. We were swapping skills, I taught him to use the internet and I fed his chickens who had been saved from a battery farm (never eaten a non-free range egg since). I thought maybe I might like to move to the country and city life was the problem so this was a test.

I arrived straight from the city with my jangling nerves and phone addiction and it took me a week to slow down and sit in wonder at the big open Western Australian skies. I loved walking around the property, jumping in the jeep to go fix a fence or drive a 100km to a friends for dinner. Going to town to get the post wasn’t to be missed and Kellerberin could have been Paris for all I cared. I loved wandering the shops, going to the Post Office (there were people there) or to Dalgety’s (more people there) to get some more farm supplies.

After a month I was another girl, full of Western Australian sunshine and big skies. I had one whole month to wind down, smell the ‘wheat’ and think about what I wanted in life. This experience was priceless and ‘Doogs’ was a kind generous soul but the isolation wasn’t for me.

Diver Positano Carla Coulson

Off the rocks Positano Italian Joy Copyright Carla Coulson

I packed my bags and headed back to Sydney to start another short term job. What I realised when I walked in on my first day was that I no longer wanted to work in an office anymore, the neon lights, the cubicles, the lack of privacy and no big skies – it felt like jail after feeding the chickens!  I stuck out 3 months and then headed to Italy.

The first night I arrived in Florence I walked the streets, stopping in Piazza Signoria. I was on my own and everything felt like it was in slow motion. I hugged myself with happiness. I felt like I belonged.

After the month of Italian school was up I was meant to move on to the next experience on the list but I didn’t want to. I felt like I had barely learnt any Italian and what a shame to go now when I could cancel the rest of my plans and stay here.

It was my second daring decision – to go with my heart and not with my head, first was leaving!!

I had never felt so free.

I stayed on, I continued with my Italian lessons in the morning and in the afternoon I let go of a lifetime of living a certain way. The spontaneity that had been beaten out of me in Sydney by a lifetime of routine and responsibility came back. I said ‘yes’ to every invitation and let barriers that I had built up over years come crashing down.

Italian Joy Cover

Italian Joy Copyright Carla Coulson

In my heart I knew I couldn’t go back to my old life. I had seen another way of living. I still hadn’t found Mr. Right but it seemed inconsequential. I had found Italy. Six months in Italy had changed me, my old life looked even smaller and sadder than before.

Before I left to sort out my affairs, I found a photography school and enrolled. It was my pact with myself. It was a connection to Italy that would force me back. I gave myself three months  in Sydney to sort things out and come back. I was convinced. And as they say “the rest is history”..when I walked into a darkroom almost 8 months later it was love at first photo..

Underwater friends Carla Coulson

Underwater friends Italian Joy Copyright Carla Coulson

Some of you will already know what you want to do in life. Lucky you.

Be happy also if you know what you ‘don’t want to do’ for the rest of your life. Rejoice in the fact that you are aware that there is another life made for you, even if you have to go and find it. This is a wonderful place to be because you have already taken the first steps towards your new life. You know what you don’t want to do.

Make a list and start exploring different creative fields. Remember not to panic if you are doing a job you don’t like today because you already making the moves to change your life just by the knowledge you aren’t happy.

Start exploring and you too  like me may uncover a burning passion you never knew existed.

Write your list of all possible options that you think you might like to explore and start ticking them off.

I hoped you enjoyed this little insight into my journey to photography and I am wishing you loads of luckdust on yours.

 “The law of work seems unfair, but nothing can change it; the more enjoyment you get out of your work, the more money you will make.???Mark Twain


PS; Please share with others on a new path..

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9 years ago

A courageous journey, a beautiful outcome. Well done Carla!

Claire Lloyd
9 years ago

Lovely Carla, a perfect post x

9 years ago

Dear Carla I wish you knew how I appreciate and love your generous personality, heartfelt openness, honesty. Your every post brings joy and inspiration and opens another door.
Loads of luckdust (like the word) to you too!

9 years ago
Reply to  Natalie

Beautifully put, Natalie – I agree with every word!

Peggy Braswell
9 years ago

adore this story about you + congradulations

La Contessa
9 years ago

You are so inspiring!Have you ever told “US” what you did before all this loveliness.If you have I missed it!Just so curious as to what your daily life was back in Australia.You write beautifully.
I have chickens!You can come feed mine any time!In fact I have one chicken who is wanting to become a rooster after many years of being silent!Perhaps,you could add some expertise here!Stop by and give me your thoughts!I have had chickens and roosters for 16 years and would NEVER give them up.They bring great JOY to me!As do you and your BLOG!
Congratulations on finding JOY and LOVE!The list worked!!!!!!

Melissa Gaggiano
9 years ago

That is beautiful Carla. I am so glad you made the leap. If you hadn’t I would never have discovered you, and then, there’s no telling if I would ever be taking a chance on my photography.
Love you babe!

9 years ago

Thx Carla for telling us the “in-between” chapter. Loved your book Italian Joy and your blog but this “inbetween” story fills in the missing piece. Now I get how to move from one world to another! A

This is Belgium
9 years ago

talking about making the right choice of having the guts to chose the road less traveled
reads like a ‘no way I can put that book down- story’
you know I share your passion for Italy, Photography and Paris.
so glad Italy had a yet- greater- surprise- to -come up its sleeve for you, i e his gorgeousness.

9 years ago

You are such an inspiration and I admire you greatly. Thank you for your vulnerability, honesty and sharing.

9 years ago

Still love reading your story Carla about your move to Italy, lovely to hear about the stepping stones you took on the way. Your book had such an impact on me and still does. Thank you for being so very brave for the rest of us. Sally xxx

Liz Thomas
9 years ago

I find this article very inspiring. As I am 2 yrs shy of retiring at age 55 from a 37 year career that quite frankly has never inspired me. It served a purpose. For three years I have been working on building a portfolio and spreading my name. Two more years of building it further and then I will take the big leap. I look forward to it and love that you did it on a much larger scale!

Alexa McAllister
7 years ago

Very brave leap taken in small steps but with much heart.

Alexa-asimplelife from Sydney, Australia