Carla Coulson is a woman that’s been on my radar for well over 15 years. When I first glanced at her very first published book: Italian Joy, I immediately fell in love and have been following her journey ever since. Her evocative photographic aesthetic, passion for life and uninhibited honesty in sharing her life story completely captured my heart. It’s rare to chance upon women like Carla. Her genuine care, willingness to share all that she’s been through and any tips that can help inspiring creatives along the way, is undoubtedly a significant contributor to her overwhelming success as a mentor and photographer. The opportunity to meet her and be coached by her, has been one of the most humbling, heartfelt and privileged experiences of my life. It’s an absolute pleasure to have her feature in my series The Mediterranean & Me. Here’s Carla’s story…
What did you first fall in love with when you visited the Mediterranean?
I think it was the water! I always loved ocean pools in Australia and adored that the Mediterranean felt like one giant ocean pool. You could float in it, swim in it and I was never worried about sharks. But it was more than that, I adored the lifestyle around the Mediterranean, the sense of hospitality of the people, the pace of life, the architecture and the food. I guess it was the whole package!
Where’s your go-to hideaway when you feel like a Mediterranean escape?
I have a couple. I adore the Greek Islands, the more authentic the better. With my hubby I have visited the quieter ones like Anaphi, Sikinos and Serifos and adore arriving on a new island, it feels so familiar but at the same time it’s new. I also love Puglia and the Amalfi Coast for different reasons. Italians like the Greeks and people who live around the Mediterranean know how to live, to take time, to enjoy the moment and I love the feeling of calm that descends when I visit these places.
Your passion for the Mediterranean is celebrated so beautifully in your photographs. What conjures up in your mind when you think of the Mediterranean?
For me it is a mentality! It’s an appreciation of simplicity, of good food, there is always kindness, hospitality and joy. If I close my eyes and think of the Mediterranean I think of some of the most beautiful calm moments in my life shared with good friends, family, strangers and the man I love. I think of dusty roads with bright spots of blue water at the end of them, the sound of donkey’s hooves, of boat rides at the end of the day and its history. I love the fact that for thousands of years, people have been crossing the Mediterranean and I get to be one of them along with all the myths and people I have read about in history books.
Of course, there’s the connection with your Italian husband, but it seems you’ve always had a natural affinity with the Mediterranean. Tell me what stirred that connection?
Positano was the first place that I arrived in the Mediterranean almost 17 years ago and I never wanted to leave. I couldn’t believe how it made me feel, all my senses were on high alert! The view sent my heart to the moon, the light was different because the mountain goes straight into the sea and there was so much joy. I remember a boat ride home from Da Adolfo at sunset, with everyone singing and I promised to hold that moment with me forever. That memory is as fresh as the day we sung those songs and guess these moments ignite a lifelong connection.
Embracing balance in your life has been very important to you. Particularly when it comes to looking after your health. Recently you and your husband made the decision to take on a different kind of creative project, one that really encompasses these values and allows you to fully embrace a Mediterranean lifestyle. Tell me about your plans for developing an eco farm?
Well at the moment it’s still a plan but we bought an old rundown building in Puglia that we would love to renovate and turn into an eco-farm where people can holiday with fresh organic vegetables and fruit picked straight from the fram and retain all the authenticity of the things we love about the building and area.
Who have been the biggest influences in your life in terms of your career and the way you approach your work?
I have to say the Italians! I was lucky to have a wonderful mentor in Marta Innocenti Ciulli who was the editor of Collezioni and gave me my first fashion job. She told me not to worry about the clothes but to create photos with emotion. She supported creatives in every sense and pushed us to be free to create images that sometimes were blurry but spoke to the heart. She was the one that told me to shoot from the heart and since the day she told me that, it’s what I have always tried to do.
I’ve always admired your unfiltered way of communicating. I think that level of authenticity you deliver is something that women in particular really resonate with. How did you get to be so comfortable in communicating like that?
Ahh… that’s taken years. I spent the first part of my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Not allowing my true authentic self to show and it was so stifling and suffocating trying to be someone I wasn’t. The the day I busted out of my old life there was no stopping me. My publisher Julie Gibbs of Penguin, gave me the best tip the day the I received my contract for my first book Italian Joy, she referred to another author that I knew of and told me ‘she was brave, she was really honest’. I remember going home to Italy and sitting alone in my little apartment and her words encouraged me to tell it as it was. Once I started, there was no stopping me!
What Mediterranean inspired projects of yours do we have to look forward to next?
Ahh… more beaches and a big one coming for us in 2018.. which part of the Mediterranean to call home.
Carla’s Quick Tips:
What is your most memorable dining experience in the Mediterranean?
With our feet in the sand in a simple taverna on Sifnos with great friends under a tamarind tree with the water lapping at our table.
What are the essential items you take when you’re travelling there?
Cotton.. I love natural fibres and adore a kaftan so very guilty of having a suitcase full of kaftans and a straw hat.
Your favourite beach?
That’s like choosing between the children you love. Da Adolfo in Positano and Sikinos in Greece had a great little beach with the most spectacular water I’ve ever seen in my life.
Best accommodation experience?
Staying with Claire Lloyd and Matthew Usmar on the island of Lesvos in their beautiful guesthouse.
Where in the Mediterranean are you heading to next?
I am teaching a workshop in Puglia in June with a group of fabulous women coming from around the world. I can’t wait to show them a part of the world I love.
If you’d like to find out more about exploring the Mediterranean with me, click HERE
Happy Travels…Paula x