Marie Claire: We talk to photographer Carla Coulson about life behind the lens

Photographer, Carla Coulson, Loc Boyle

Image credit: Loc Boyle

by Nicola Moyne | Originally published in Marie Claire UK


Her iconic ‘Italian Joy’ and ‘Jeune Fille En Fleur’ photographs have become collectible items for fine-art fans worldwide. But it’s Carla Coulson’s azure-blue beach shots that have sent our wanderlust levels stellar. Now living in Paris, Carla Coulson has her eye set on snapping the Med’s luxury shorelines next. Here, she speaks to Nicola Moyne about following her heart, Leicas and the art of shooting beach life.


You had been running a successful business in Sydney before you started studying photography. What made you take the leap?

I had a camera and took photos, but I didn’t know how to use it on manual. When I started at photography school in Florence, I didn’t know anything about how the photography business worked. At that point, I was really focused on learning and the first time I developed something in the darkroom, I was obsessed. I would take my camera with me day and night and I adored shooting daily Italian life.


Atrani, one of Coulson’s most iconic Italian beach shots

Atrani, one of Coulson’s most iconic Italian beach shots


Who has inspired your career and style of photography?

I had a teacher at photography school who was really passionate about reportage, so I looked to all the great humanist photographers of the 1950s, such as Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I spent hundreds of hours ‘learning’ by looking at images and discovering new photographers. Paolo Roversi set my heart and imagination on fire; I love the joy and fun in the photos of Ellen Von Unwerth; and Richard Avedon has an innate class that inspires me. Over the years, I have looked at so many different photographers but at the moment I am letting my inner voice speak. I had the great fortune to work with a fashion editor, Marta Innocenti Ciulli, who was the editor of Collezioni and she told me not to worry about the clothes but shoot images that were from the heart and full of emotions. She told me, ‘If the photos were beautiful, people would feel connected to them’. I think you can go on learning forever.


Monopoli: A colour choreography of beach umbrellas and beach toys on a background of turquoise.


Your fashion and travel photography is so immersive. How would you describe your style?

I am obsessed with life and all the nuances. I adore people and creating photos that have a connection. I get bored when there are no emotions so I work to create emotions in a picture even at first glance when there appears there are none. I would describe my style as emotive. I am inspired by Italy and the emotions of life. Where there is life, you will find me.


La Fontelina Beach in Capri

Poolside: Coulson’s bird’s eye view of Bronte Pool in Sydney, Australia

Poolside: Coulson’s bird’s eye view of Bronte Pool in Sydney, Australia


Do you have a favourite camera?

I love my old Leica’s, the M6 and M7. They are so small and unobtrusive and people almost don’t notice that you are taking pictures. I would like to go back to having a smaller digital camera that I can take everywhere with me like the new Fuji’s. I hear so many photographers – particularly women – who find the bigger cameras too heavy and cumbersome to take out on a daily basis and this is a problem with you like to shoot street photography and life.


Are you a fan of film or digital?

I love both and I think there is a place for both. The thing I love about film is that once you have stopped shooting your job is finished. With digital, we spend way too much time at a computer.


Parasol paradise at La Scogliera, Italy

Parasol paradise at La Scogliera, Italy


What, or who, do you love photographing the most?

The beach and flowers. For me, there is nothing other than joy in shooting these two series. I adore selecting the flowers, picking them up and then trying to create magic… The beaches are my natural home – I shooting love the Amalfi Coast, including Atrani – I would be going anyway. I also recently shot Heidi Middleton formerly of Sass and Bide in a mini-castle in France. A spectacular person in a spectacular place.


Is your house filled with gorgeous photos? Paint a picture for us…

Yes, I have a lot of photos and art around. Not only mine, but those by friends and artists I admire. I love to be surrounded by images and have a wall behind where I sit with racks filled with images and art. (To purchase Carla Coulson’s fine art prints, visit


Positano from the water – one of the Amalfi coast’s prettiest cliffside villages

Positano from the water – one of the Amalfi coast’s prettiest cliffside villages


What advice would you give any aspiring photographers out there?

Follow your heart and don’t try and make money out of it too soon. There is an enormous value in letting your eye and style develop without the pressure of a job. It’s wonderful to let your heart lead you and see where it takes you. If you give yourself enough time in the beginning and develop a style and an opinion, it will ultimately make your journey to wherever you want to go shorter.


P.S. There is one place available on Heartland, a People and Spaces Photography Workshop this October, set in the beautiful Puglia, Italy. You can join the workshop HERE.


Related Post: Monica Bellucci, Sophia Loren and all my other Southern Italian fantasies

Summer Lovefest 20% Off Storewide


Dear Folks,

Summer is my favourite season and as I pack my bikini and goggles to start a summer junket taking me to the South of France, Italy and Greece, I want to say thanks to you for all your support and love throughout the years.

Having the chance to travel the Mediterranean each summer has always been my luxury.



With the code SUMMERLOVEFEST on checkout, you will receive 20% off all prints storewide till Sunday 29th July 2018 Midnight Paris time. You can start browsing HERE.

Sending you the biggest flower and beach hug ever.



Related Post: Why Is It So Hard To Listen To Our Heart?

Listen To Your Heart, carla coulson, flowers, paris, jeune fille en fleur, forman picture framing, lilac bouquet, on my way, great future ahead, lisianthus, joyful and unstoppable, dahlia bouquet, paris florist, fine art print, limited edition,

Why Is It So Hard To Listen To Our Heart?

Listen To Your Heart

Dear Folks,

I wanted to share this story with you for many reasons. I practice daily listening to my heart in life and business and I still manage to get it wrong.

Listening to our heart or intuition is one thing but following through on it is another.

This was one of the first photos I took whilst shooting these heavenly white peonies and this beautiful gal in St Germain des Prés. It made me take a little gasp.

You see photography for me has always been about a feeling not just seeing. As one friend/coach kindly pointed out to me ‘I see through feeling’.

Whooh, know that is probably sounding really weird but once I took some time to understand the words it makes perfect sense.

I have always and will be connected to photography because of the emotions. In this case, they are subtle, it’s in the body language, the wind in the peonies and the girl on her tippy toes, it’s in the skirt, the slightest movement that is ever so feminine and soft. But it’s the feeling of quietness that touched me, the subtle questioning of her body and the beautiful disarray of the flowers as though the world has stopped and she is listening to something we can’t hear, possibly her heart.

I loved her at first sight and then…. I overlooked her as the voices around me gathered and polled. It was my fault, I asked anyone that walked into my office ‘what do you think’. They all voted for something else, got bogged down in other details, in the perfect and I left my heart behind.

As a photographer and human, we can love so deeply and widely and it so easy to love many things, people, beings and images and this was one of those cases for me that tore at my heart and I didn’t have the courage (till today to listen to it).

So I have named her Listen To Your Heart as a reminder that our heart knows the way and if we have the courage to listen to it we will always have the answer that is right for us.

She walked into the shop today and will proudly stand beside her sisters of Young Girl In Bloom as reminders to us girls (and boys) that we always have the answers. I am extra proud and excited to have her with us as now my body feels right as well as my heart. Check them out HERE.

Sending love,


Related Post: Peonies That Will Make You Stand Your Ground

Peonies that will make you stand your ground

standing her ground, Paris, peonies, Carla Coulson photography, limited edition fine art print

Oh Dearest folks and loved ones,

It’s with great joy that I welcome this image, fondly known as “Standing Her Ground” into our lives.

Each time I glance her way, my heart fills with love and she will probably have the same effect on you!

“Standing her Ground” was photographed on the streets of St Germain des Prés with the biggest bunch of ancient white peonies.

She symbolizes that moment in life when, as women, we start to trust ourselves and find our voice, when we are no longer willing to be pushed around and stand our ground for what we believe in but in the most feminine of ways. No longer do we feel pushy, bossy, or aggressive — just filled with an inner knowing of what is right and in our feminine power.

0F4A0977_Standing Her Ground NEW-1

She is a beautiful fine art limited edition print and you can make this beauty yours HERE

If you are in Australia, she is available at the folks Forman Art and Framing on my beaches and flowers.

Happy Summer and lots of love,

Carla x

Related Post: Giant Peony Bouquet in Paris


Black and white photography, italian photography workshop, travel photography, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, photographer, night photography, photographers life, florence, italy, photography

Dear Ladies and Gents,

This photo is an oldie but it’s a photo that has stayed with me, and I’ve called it ‘Liberty’. It was taken in Florence at 3 am on a summer’s night. At the time of the morning, the city was another world; barmen on their way home from a job, chefs giving us the best tips on where to shoot, and lovers feeling like Florence was all theirs.

I shot this on a Leica M6 using 3200 film with the girl doing lots of movement. It was shoots like these that I learned to master movement and lack of light, and the magic of that dress and the words we whispered to her were captured in the energy and emotion in this photo. Each time I look at the movement, it makes me smile.

For me, this photo embodies the sensation of freedom, of the feminine spirit taking flight in the direction that she has always meant to go in.

I am launching this photo as a Limited Edition Fine Print, and it comes in 2 sizes: 20 x 30 inch and 32 x 48 inch, and it is printed onto beautiful Hahnemule paper.

You can own a print by clicking HERE.

Related post: Wanna be this Girl on the Streets of Paris?