saying goodbye

You Were Always On My Mind — Saying Goodbye to John

saying goodbye

When I walked out of the Penguin office in Sydney with a contract to write and photograph a book, I had no idea of what that meant and how that piece of paper would open my world to endless opportunities and people. 

My editor Julie Gibbs cleverly asked me as I was about to get into the lift, ‘Do you remember the book A Thousand Days in Venice?’ and I replied, ‘Yes, it was one of my favourite books.’

Julie replied, ‘She was very honest,’ and wished me good luck.

I had no intention of being honest when I signed up to photograph and write a book but it was those words that accompanied me on the flight home from Sydney to Florence and haunted me when I sat down to start the project. 

Did I have to be honest? At some point, I figured no one was going to read it anyway so I might as well tell the truth.

Italian Joy was a modest bestseller in Australia and maybe it was the honesty that touched the people that needed to find it and in turn reach out to find me.

The first person that ever wrote to me was John and it was an old-fashioned letter via my publisher. I was truly shocked that someone would actually write me a letter; it was way back in 2005 and the internet hadn’t ramped up to its current state of being able to reach out to absolutely anyone on the planet. 

John wrote how he had loved Italian Joy and was of Italian descent, was mad about photography, and worked in Adelaide as a car salesman. I was fascinated that someone not only bought the book but liked it and touched that this mystery person would bother to write to me. 

When he signed up to come to my first ever workshop in Sydney, I felt nervous and wondered what I could possibly offer this sweet person. He sent me a note days before the workshop telling me ‘that he couldn’t wait to be inspired’ and again I never thought anyone would be coming to be inspired, just to learn the information I was ready to pass on. 

His words were like an electric cattle prod, I reworked everything. 

I thought about what would be inspirational if you had never had your photography published or if you dreamed of being a photographer or having your work admired by others.

My audience was predominantly female and as we welcomed the people to my first ever workshop, I knew there were only a couple of male names on the list and that the smiling face was John even before asking his name. His eyes twinkled, his smile was of the wraparound variety, and I just wanted to hug him. 

It’s always an honour to think that someone would travel all the way from Adelaide to Sydney to attend my workshop but this husband and father of one was one of those rare souls that you felt like you have known forever within the first five minutes of meeting them. 

As the day progressed, John would sidle up next to me or pass by when I was in conversation, and out the corner of his mouth utter ‘in awe’ with that twinkle in his eye, and for someone who was overwhelmed by the thought of even holding a workshop yet meeting many of the kind souls who had written to me throughout the years, they were two words that puzzled me at the same time made me burst into laughter. 

I had never been put on a pedestal and for the first time in my life, the beautiful John Callisto had managed to do that. That was John’s magic: he made you feel good. I attribute the success of that workshop to him, for looking forward to being inspired and in turn inspiring me to make it better. 

Years later, I had the joy of holding a workshop in Puglia and travelling with a group of photographers to Puglia, and one of John’s dreams was to come on that trip. His wife Claudia made it happen and John joined our ‘Caravan’ and adventures in the South of Italy.  

On that trip, John went from being ‘my number one fan’ to family. I loved that man, he was the glue in a group of eleven women. John loved photography and was an excellent photographer. He would carry two cameras at once and he would literally throw himself into situations whether it be a card game in a men’s club, trying to get the best shot in a local butcher, or capturing a religious service. Hence, his photos were imbued with his incredible empathy and love for life, with the passion and enthusiasm that John had for Italy and people. 

John was ‘all in’. He would talk to people in Italian and if they didn’t understand then he would try in sign language,  the energy of the man would bubble and flow till they all understood. 

John lived life wholeheartedly, there were tears and laughter, hugs and wonder, jokes and stories from the heart. John would tell us over and over how much he loved and missed his wife and son, some days he would be late for breakfast because he was gathering his emotions from being so far away from the people he loved. 

If Brené Brown needs a photograph for the depiction of what it means to live and love wholeheartedly, she could simply put a portrait of John Callisto under the word ‘wholeheartedly’. 

John passed away recently from a heart attack at the age of 53 and my heart broke. How could the man that had such a huge hand in my life and success just leave us like that. As his wife Claudia said in her eulogy, “Today we are placing John’s physical body at his final resting place but I know his soul has already reached heaven above. They process the good ones real quick and he would have certainly been in the VIP line. He probably knew the person at the entrance gate and got the special treatment. The person would have announced to everyone hey John Callisto the Merc one has arrived, let him directly through. John would have replied, ‘Oh no, please don’t make any fuss on my part, I’m just glad to be part of all the action. Let this old lady in first, she looks more tired than me.'”

John was a great one. The kind of man we need more of, a man willing to feel the love and the pain, the laughter and the joy, to give and receive, to have the courage to put words to his feelings and dare to say them out aloud to the people he cared about. That’s true courage.

It has been seventeen years since that first letter arrived and we always stayed in touch. Many kind words have been said to me over the years but John Callisto’s have stayed with me. When he was on the way back to the airport after our Puglia workshop, he said to my fellow photographer, ‘The workshop was overwhelming,’ and my friend said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘The first half of it, I was just getting over the awe of being with Carla!’

I wish I had one more chance to tell John the enormous impact he had on my life, how those words made their way back to me and filled my heart with pride. That his words counted more than he could ever know and that with everything I have ever done since that first workshop, I ask myself, ‘Would this inspire John?’ If the answer was no, I would improve whatever I was doing. 

To Claudia and Marcus, the love and light of his life, I send my deepest condolences to both of you and I can vouch along with a whole group of photographers in Puglia that you were two of the most loved people on the planet and John proudly told us so daily.

As Claudia said in her eulogy, ‘John had a life well-lived, despite his passing at an early age. I know that in my heart, a good life is not measured by the years you have lived, but by the love you have given and received. In terms of this definition then, this would in fact make John very very old — ancient in fact.’


Godspeed, beautiful John.

friends dining together thwarting the tyranny of tech

Why I Feel Guilty For Helping The Tyranny of Tech as Jeff Bezos Blasts Into Space (And What I’m Doing About It)

friends dining together thwarting the tyranny of tech

When I saw that Jeff Bezos had blasted into outer space and wanted to take billionaires with him, instead of realising it was the beginning of the tyranny of tech, I thought, ‘What a dick!’ 

Seconds later, a light bulb went off in my head. I realised I’d contributed (in my small way) to make this happen and I was appalled. Maybe it was just the cover for the blinker of his spaceship or the zipper on his spacesuit but I contributed to making this happen, to the tyranny of tech that we now are facing and I am guilty as charged! 

I have been a huge Amazon fan and contributed to the success of this giant in many ways. I loved having my books delivered to my home in Paris as often it was difficult to track them down here or it meant making an effort to trudge off to one of the bookstores that sold English books across the other side of town. I also bought other things that I could have found in a local shop if I had tried such as photography equipment, cat beds, and gadgets, but I used the excuse that it was easier, and herein lies the problem!

Amazon — like many of the incredible tech creations such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google — started out as a truly amazing idea and service that liberated us on one hand and gave us the opportunities to access products once not possible delivered to our doors but have made us exceptionally lazy and housebound.

Then the tech giants grew from backyard underdogs to be a global monopoly that stamped out the competition in the form of corner bookstores and small chains around the world; family-run businesses that had served communities for generations and the individual, the artisan, and the way we communicate and congregate. We have ushered in a new era, the the tyranny of tech. Social media and tech giants hijacked our time, creativity, common sense, and distanced ourselves from mother nature and humanity. Our dopamine addiction and their brilliant use of algorithms have made us slaves to smartphones and screens, dishing up just one more cat video that will give you (me) our next hit. 

Instead of hundreds of thousands of families being able to live through selling books or selling other products that bring them joy, it has become one family, Mr. Bezos’s and his mates.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as anyone else and I’m grateful that it allows me to have an online business. These giant tech corporations have given us brilliant innovations that have, on one hand, liberated the way we work but also dictate what we can purchase, what information we have access to or don’t, freedom of speech and censorship, the breakdown of communities, and how our society is being shaped. Right now it feels like we are on a giant seesaw where one end is hitting the ground and the other is swinging way up in the air, there is literally no balance. 

In short, we have given this handful of people the ability to control our lives on every level and we have lost our way with how we use it. 

We forget how powerful we are. We think that our actions and choices don’t make a difference but they do, it’s how we consume, what we purchase, where we invest, and who gets our attention, time, and pennies that make certain corporations, men and women, social media platforms and tech giants so powerful. We are collectively responsible. 

The tyranny of tech means that the power in the world right now is in the hands of very few people,  and it’s impacting our world in an enormous way. 

Imagine if Jeff Bezos decided to save the Amazon forest instead of shooting himself up into space on Friday night with his buddies for a whiskey and dry, what a difference that would make? What if Mark Zuckerberg, the ‘illegitimate prince’ in the tyranny of tech, decided to unite the world instead of dividing it with his algorithms and censorship and plans for even more artificial intelligence simply so whatever our brains think will be delivered to our door without hitting a button? What if we all started walking across town to get our books and art products, who would we meet, what would we see, what conversations would we have, what inspiration would come into our minds and what joy we would receive? What if we got the control back in our lives and put down the phones, even left them at home, and freed ourselves from the dopamine that is begging us to pick them up yet again?

Of course, this is all my opinion and you may see it differently and that is OK!

Bare with me whilst I continue my observations.

Here is what it is doing to us:


Social media has contributed more than any other innovation in our lifetime to the breakdown of human connection and isolation. Once upon a time, we relied on community halls and gatherings, feast days, and concerts to come together and do what humans do. Talk, help each other, laugh, dance, rejoice, mourn and live. Instead, people are staying home and making endless Tik Tok videos.

The tyranny of tech means we are isolated in our homes, anxious and disconnected from each other, and held hostage by a screen. A screen that tells you highly curated information so only you get to see what they want you to see. A screen that has hijacked our lives and we have all become addicted to being inundated with useless information from thousands of people we barely know, bits of mind numbing trivia that occupies our consciousness, energy and drains one of the most precious resources we have, our time.

The other great disconnection is with ourselves. The chaotic amount of information and opinions of others derails our intuition and losing your own rudder means losing yourself, decisions and choices become overwhelming.

Social Media — Too Much of the Wrong Information

I had a thought about this the other day! When I was a kid, I would know about some aspects of the lives of the kids around me. There were vague whispers about others through parents, teachers, and other adults, and the news from outside my world came through magazine articles and television. Now if I click on Facebook, I can access trivial information of literally thousands of people that I barely know. Superficial Information that takes up my attention, affects my emotions, and clogs up my brain. The human being has never been in a situation of such ineffective, useless information overload since the beginning of time. No wonder people can’t get anything done or teenagers (and adults) are wracked with anxiety.  Anybody that consumes it, would feel anxious. 

Watch Social Dilemma on Netflix to get a better understanding.


Mainstream media has become poison. Yep, I said it. 

People always ask me how I manage to stay positive in a world that feels scary and my answer is, ‘I don’t own a television.’ Mainstream media has become a version of social media with its one-sided algorithms and blasting fear into your living room 24/7. No wonder the quality of people’s lives is becoming less and less because the greatest weapon used against humanity today is fear and the mainstream media love nothing better than giving you a daily dose to keep you topped up and under control. What happened to great journalism and debate, what happened to creativity and storytelling? What happened to the search for the truth and the marvels in our world?


People often ask me how I managed to create three books of my own and collaborate on a further five when I was starting out? The answer is very simple, social media didn’t exist at the time or it hadn’t ramped up to overtake our lives. I wasn’t busy creating content on social media, walking along a street being dragged out of reality by a ‘ding’, or going down a rabbit hole of posts that triggered my emotions and sucked my time. Instead, I was wandering around villages in Italy or Europe, finding beauty and sharing that with others. I was sharing positivity and joy and allowing space for ideas to come in. People often have remarked that I produced a lot of work and when I look back now with all the distractions in our lives, I realise the difference is the peace and ability to focus. Now you have to have a military game plan to make that happen, strict boundaries, and bucket loads of self-control because the level of distractions and interruptions is mind-blowing (literally).

the tyranny of tech, playing an old fashioned game in italy friends and family, carla coulson


Once upon a time social media came in the form of community halls, festivals, sporting clubs, charities, RSL clubs, music, art classes and many other wonderful ways that humans would congregate. We’ve lost the balance, many of us have had moments in our lives where the tyranny of tech has meant we have had a good night in ‘staring at our phones’ with a home delivered meal instead of putting on our favourite outfit and going out into the world to hear the music and laughter.

Mother Nature

If anyone is shaking her head and wondering what the hell is happening is the mother of all mothers, Mother Nature. One of the greatest tragedies that I believe in our lives today has been the imbalance technology has created with mother nature. It has disconnected us from the great outdoors, from getting off the couch and going for a hike, sitting in the backyard, diving under a wave, planting a garden, and just admiring her beauty. We have forgotten we are her children, we are part of nature and not apart from nature. That we need her as much as she needs us and our bodies do well when we are connected to nature. She is wondering where we went, why the mass exodus from outdoor barbecues, playgrounds, hiking through her forests, and sailing on her seas?

the tyranny of tech, a day at the beach in monopoli, carla coulson


I would encourage you to check in and see if the people at the head of the places where you consume everything in your life have values that are aligned with yours. 

Ask yourself, ‘What values are important to me?’ Start to consume and align with people, companies, and platforms that have similar values to you. If you don’t align with a guy who wants to blast off into space then find another place to get what you need and with someone who values the same things as you.

What I’m doing to change it and you can too.

    1. I stopped purchasing from Amazon and found other alternatives. I want to do business with people who believe in our planet. I made a pledge to ‘buy better.’ I check who owns what. Instead of buying a Nestlé chocolate, I choose a local French chocolate maker; instead of buying from Zara, I buy from family-owned or small companies promoting quality, not quantity. I shifted a long time ago from products like L’Oreal shampoos to a locally made solid shampoo. For the past twenty years I do the bulk of my shopping at my local market where I meet the same people each week, individual families that run their stalls and sell their produce instead of shopping at big chain supermarkets. Start looking at alternatives, locally made products, small companies, or alternatives to the giants. Start spreading the love/money. Your money will make the difference. 
    2. To lesson the distraction and the tyranny of tech, I have moved my coaching groups off Facebook onto a private platform and will be closing my Carla Loves Photography page for good this week as well as my personal profile and slowly closing down anything that is owned by Mr. Z Berg. Instead, I meet up more with friends in person, have conversations with the ones I love, and set a daily limit on social media. I’m putting time into the community on my doorstep.  Observe how much time you spend on social media and set a limit. Start to become conscious of how it makes you feel and what it stops you from doing because you are consuming too much of it. 
    3. Turn off the television and give it away. Make a conscious decision to control what comes into your mind and energy field instead of letting an endless mantra of fear program you. Start to pay attention to what they are saying instead of letting it cascade over you and you will see the fear is a constant message.
    4. Walk away from your screens, call a friend, knit, go outside, take the dog for a walk, create, play tennis or get your friends over for a barbecue and talk. Join a club, go see a concert, get up and dance, laugh, and celebrate being human. Get out into nature and enjoy her beauty, go on a hike, swim in the sea, or go for a walk on the beach. Fill yourself up with goodness and recharge your tired mind and soul.
    5.  Get connected to your breath and release the anxiety that comes with staring at your screen. You can breathe with Athalee Brown and myself  HERE
the tyranny of tech, friends chatting whilst swimming, carla coulson

Above all, my beautiful friends, remember you are powerful. You may think you are small and what you do won’t change anything, you are wrong, it will change everything. There are millions of us and we are the ones that ultimately have the power and with every choice we make, we can create a new and exciting framework for the future that will serve our families, children, nature, creativity, nervous systems, and our souls.  

If we spread our money, love, and joy around, we spread the power around too, it will be in the pockets and hearts of many thousands upon thousands of families and small businesses that one by one will help us build a better and more harmonious world. By waking up to what is going on we can turn this tyranny of tech around before it is too late. 

Please feel free to add a comment, a contribution, an idea, a way you manage your life today because opening the conversation and working together is what I believe will make a better world. 


Sending you love…

Carla x

A Fresh Start, Energy, Burnout, and Autoimmunes

Dear Lovelies,

In Paris, we are experiencing a fresh start, a moment of excitement, hope, and good energy for what is next to come. Fresh starts require energy and that comes from our wellbeing so in today’s video I’m talking about energy, wellbeing, burnout, and autoimmunes and sharing my story on how I healed Lichen Sclerosus, Graves Disease, and Alopecia Areata naturally.

Over the years, I’ve blogged about this many times, and recently I had numerous people get in touch about their wellbeing so I thought it was time for a little update.


If you have any questions leave me a comment below and I will get back to you.

Love and light,
Carla x

P. S. If you would like a little help reconnecting to something that sparks your joy, you can download my free Reawakening your Lust for life PDF here.

Mum, Eliza, Carla Coulson

A Mother’s Day Roadtrip

Mum, Eliza, Carla Coulson
With my niece Eliza and Mum at the back

My Dearest Lovelies,

When I think of my Mother, I also think of my Father.

Mum and Dad were a formidable team and they did everything together. So this Mother’s Day will seem a little odd for my beautiful Mum as she bravely navigates life on her own since Dad’s death. Armed with her enormous capacity for love, change, spontaneity, and belief in the hereafter, I know she will make it a beautiful next chapter.

This summer, Mum, my niece Eliza, and I did what any gals would do when they needed a little respite from heartbreak — we packed the car like my parents have done throughout their lives and headed out West.

We just wanted to drive, to feel the road pass underneath the wheels, see the landscape change and soothe us, and go to all the towns and places that we visited when we were  young and carefree. We wanted to feel the wind and the heat of driving in the middle of an Australian summer.

We needed an adventure of the heart.

The roads and towns of western New South Wales are imprinted in our collective DNA, passed down from my parents and grandparents and the enormous laundry list of towns they have called home for a short while.

Over the Blue Mountains, the Coulson’s feel like they are going home.

Our adventure included no bookings or plans, and we would just pick somewhere on the map (Mum’s suggestion) and head there.

The rolling hills and valleys of Oberon passed as we headed for Mayfield gardens, one of Mum’s recent dreams. We went to Boorowa, Cowra, Canowindra, dropped in to see friends out of Orange and Blayney and jumped back in the car to drive some more.

We laughed, we cried, we remembered, we argued about whether we had taken the wrong road or not and Mum told us our stories, the ones of her childhood, her family, of Dad and Mum when they were young and she passed onto the next generation the curiosity of places unknown.

We slept in pubs, hotels, motor inns, we spoke to strangers, we swam in local pools, ate Chinese food whenever we could like we did in the 70’s when we would put on our best outfit and Dad and Mum would take us out. 

Everything was fascinating, beautiful, new and I passed three of the most hilarious, special days of my adult life with my two road trip buddies. .

We drove and drove and we felt connected to Dad.

My mum has always chosen to make our lives fun from when we were kids, to show us that every day can be an adventure if we embrace spontaneity.

Mum has given more love and care than one Mum is required to do and on our little road trip she showed us that at 82 her spirit of adventure is still alive and her willingness to embrace the new and unknown is a gift.

Mum and Dad on the road at the end of the 60's.

This Mother’s Day, I’m sending all my love to my Mum and to all Mothers whose incredible work and impact is impossible to put into words and will be felt for many years to come.


Love and light,

Carla xx


P.S. We have a Mother’s Day Free Print Offer for every purchase of 20″ x 30″ (or larger) Limited Edition Print from my Young Girl in Bloom collection you receive a FREE 12 x 18 inch print of your choice so you can share the love. Full details here


How Photography Helped Me With Grief


When I received the word that my father was dying, it was already in a year that had its own share of grief, 2020. 

In Paris, our freedom had been taken away almost overnight with only hours of warning. The previous day I’d had the intuition to buy some black cardboard and as many flowers as I could get my hands on in different varieties. 

When the news came the following day that we would have 8 weeks without all shops, parks, theatres, restaurants, cafes and only 1 hour outside a day with a document, I constructed a little space in my office to take photos. 

Each afternoon at the end of the day, I would take a single flower and photograph it as though I was shooting a model and this single flower was a woman. I’d look at it from every angle, reimagine the petals into being gowns, the stems into long necks or legs. Some of them I imagined for the first time singing or shouting, standing proud or others dancing.

In all the phases of living and dying, I stayed with them till the smell of the water became unbearable. As the lockdown worsened, they became more and more precious, my escape every afternoon into a world of wonder, shape, form, light, and magic. In those hours I was with my flowers, I felt good, free of anxiety, lost in their details, and pushing myself to find something new I’d never seen before simply by moving a couple of centimetres. 

Then I got the call no daughter or son ever wants to get, that it was time to say goodbye to the first man I’d ever loved without knowing whether it would even be possible to get from Paris to Sydney with the restrictions on every part of the planet. 

Thanks to my beautiful friends Domenica More Gordon and Claire Lloyd who suggested printing my Covid project onto fabric, I could take it with me into a quarantine hotel for 2 weeks in Sydney whilst I passed the days waiting to see my father and add another layer.

On the two ‘weekends’ I was in Quarantine Hotel, I spent two days straight embroidering my flowers, adding little bits of gold to them like they were couture gowns or just paying my respects to the creativity of mother nature. The stitches felt like I was sewing it all together, my story, the past, the present, the old, the new, and bits of me that needed to be healed. In the quietness of embroidering (not that well), the hours passed quickly and each day I would wake, I would be one day closer to seeing Mum and Dad.

Dad waited for me and over the coming weeks when all Dad needed was to be loved, to share thoughts on life and have his favourite foods (oysters and mangoes) as he dozed in his chair, I would embroider quietly as the hours passed. 

Some of my flowers were in the stages of dying just like my father. I saw them as beautiful just as they were when they were in full bloom. I saw my father as an old man at the end of his life still beautiful as the lines blurred with the tall handsome man I knew as a child. I saw life in all its stages as beautiful and everything in the world seemed to hold wonder.

On the day before my father died, I stayed in the apartment all day, it was a hot day and something told me to stay. I made this flower, Mum had suggested which petals to embroider and I loved sitting quietly embroidering whilst Dad dozed. 

Grief cracks you open, like someone dropped a giant rock from high above you and smashes a part of you that you normally can’t access. Your senses are on high alert, and your antenna grows, you see more, feel more, and smell more. You feel a heightened awareness for everything like you’ve taken a magnifying drug into your feeling body.

Creativity gave me peace and mindfulness in a world that felt out of control, grounded me into the present instead of letting me ‘future trip’ into a scary place, invited me to see the details not only in front of me but around me, and that even in heartbreaking circumstances, there can be beauty, dignity, and creativity. 

Grief is every individual’s journey, everyone grieves differently but without photography and creativity, I’m not sure I would have managed quite so well. This little project of the heart will always have special meaning to me for keeping me sane during Covid, showing that there is true beauty in living and dying and that even an old dog like me can learn to do things differently.

If you are grieving, maybe there is a little creative project that will gently accompany you through this time.

Sending you love,

Carla x

P.S. Grief can take away our rudder and if you have recently lost someone and are wondering what is next for you, you can download my Free Workbook, Reawaken Your Lust For Life.