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Carla Coulson talks Paris, memoir, and creativity

I am so honoured to be interviewed on writer Louisa Deasey’s blog, chatting about all things books.

Here’s a short preview of what we talked about:


I fell in love with Carla Coulson’s photography via her second book, Paris Tango. She has such an energetic style of capturing movement in her shots, which is probably why international magazines such as Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue have been commissioning her work since she up and left Sydney for Europe, over a decade ago.

It’s hard to imagine that someone like Carla once doubted her creative abilities. But twelve years ago, Carla had never picked up a camera, nor had a picture – or her words – published…

Tell us how your first book, Italian Joy, come about?

I had just left my life in Sydney and was starting over in Europe. I’d finished my photography studies in Florence. I was fascinated with Italian life and kept photographing the same things over and over – things like love, family, food, and the way Italians lived.

I’d had my first photography spreads published in Marie Claire, so i had made some great connections through that editorial work. The original idea was for me to work with a writer to make social comments about my photos of Italy, but my editor (Julie Gibbs at Penguin) asked me how I ended up in Italy, sensing a story behind it.

What was the most surprising aspect of writing that memoir?

As I was getting into the lift when I signed my book contract, my lovely editor asked me if I’d read A Thousand Days in Venice?

I said yes, and she just made a quick comment about the honesty of the author. No big speech or pep talk – she just left me with those words.

When I went back to Florence I it was cold, dark and wintry and I thought no-one would read the book anyway so I decided to be honest.

In my own little bubble I also felt disconnected to the idea that anyone would ever read it, so this freed me up to be honest.

There’s something very empowering about telling your story, and it’s helped me understand myself better. I poured my heart and soul into that book.

You’ve now published six books! (which is amazing, by the way) – why is Italian Joy your favourite?

It was a simple book, but it marked such a joyous time in my life, being freed from a lifetime of how I thought I “should” live and finding this beautiful simple life that excited me, connected me to myself and others and led me to feel fulfilled.

When it was published, I heard from so many others that read the book and felt the same way, and Italian Joy connected them both to me and to themselves. This was one of the greatest gifts I received from this book, the connections it brought me.

What Italian Joy has shown me is that we are full of infinite possibilities. I picked up a camera at age 35 and became a photographer, I learned to write much later too, so now I believe with time and practice I can enjoy art, or music or some other creative outlet where as previously I told myself I wasn’t talented. I know we are ALL TALENTED and creativity is innate in all of us.

Can you give any tips to those embarking on their first memoir – from your experience of writing Italian Joy?

I had no intention of becoming a writer, but when the opportunity arose I was so deeply connected to wanting this new life as a photographer, I chose to take the leap and try. So I did a writing course that helped me get the words down on paper and I found a voice I never knew I had!

I discovered that I love writing and that I had A LOT to say, that each and everyone of us has a story, and that our story, no matter how insignificant it may feel, has the power to inspire others and change lives.

I will be forever grateful to have found a voice, and to Julie Gibbs for asking me to share my story.


You can read the rest of the interview on her blog HERE.

Related post: Why Your Photos and Story Count