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Known for Her Chic Parisian Portraits,
the Aussie Photographer Opens Up About
Capturing Real Women at Their Best
Long before I could dream big enough to imagine starring in my own Paris photoshoot, I was drawn to the work of photographer Carla Coulson. For years I followed her blog, always excited to see more of her enchanting portraits of real women coming alive in the City of Lights. So it was a delight to get to work with her on the Paris issue of Divine Living!

carla-1An Australian living in Paris, Carla’s travel, portraiture, and fashion photography has been published in six books as well as major magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire. Getting to know her over the course of our shoot in Paris, I was fascinated to hear her story and inspired to learn she was in her mid-30s when she first picked up a camera.

Like many strong women entrepreneurs I know, Carla created her dream life by reimagining what was possible for her and finding the courage to start new. At just 23, she had co-founded a company in Sydney making promotional clothing and uniforms for corporations. By her early 30s, even though the business was a success, she knew her heart wasn’t in it and she just wasn’t happy.

Catching up recently over the phone, I asked Carla about the moment that propelled her to make a change: “It was almost Christmas, which was a difficult time because everyone in my family was married and I was single. I had an argument for the first time with my business partner, and when I went to pick up dinner at my local Thai restaurant, I found out I had been awarded ‘Customer of the Year,’ because I had ordered more take-out than anyone else.”

“I was horrified!” Carla exclaimed with a laugh. “And I knew if I didn’t change something in that very moment, my life would stay the same.”

carla-2So Carla called up her business partner then and there and told him she was unhappy. Once she spoke up about how she really felt, things started to fall into place. She planned to travel for a year, but ended up loving Italy so much she decided to stay in Florence and enroll in photography school. She sold her share of the company to her business partner, and dove with passion into a new career.

“Even though I loved photography, I didn’t know a lot about it. But when I walked into the dark room for the first time something kind of magical happened. From that day on I was super passionate about it.”
To me, Carla’s story is another great example of a woman saying yes to her desires—even when it feels like it’s out of her comfort zone and especially when it’s inconvenient—and the Universe rising to support her. After she finished a year of school, she was encouraged to start creating work rather than waiting around for a gig. The first story she shot was published in Marie Claire Australia, and from there her career took off.

carla-3With an impressive portfolio of print and editorial work under her belt, in recent years Carla has also established a successful business specializing in personal branding photo-shoots for real women.

“I first got the idea because I’d been single for so long—by the time I got married I was 46. For me and my girlfriends who hadn’t been married, we never had that glamorous wedding photograph that our mums and grandmothers had. So I thought, I’m going to make that photograph—the one us girls really want.”

Today women from around the world come to Paris to book a day with Carla. Her unique portraits are artful and romantic, incorporating dreamy scenery and styling. Along with her irresistible aesthetic, it’s her ability to draw the best out of the women she photographs that has made her so highly sought after. It also happens to be her great passion.

“I love my life, I love the people I meet,” she told me. “Every couple of days I get to meet someone fabulous. I think that by putting out what I like, I draw people who have a similar energy, and many of them become friends. So at the end of the day, my job is almost like a day out with my girlfriends!”

carla-4Looking at Carla’s photos you can definitely sense that playful, upbeat energy, and now that I’ve worked with her myself I can attest to what a highlight the experience really is. I had a phenomenal two days shooting with her all throughout the streets of Paris, and could not be more delighted with the gorgeous images she captured!

Through her work, Carla has been influential in creating a new way for women to see themselves—one that is more diverse and authentic than what we might be used to seeing in the media. “I think that’s why women relate to my photography, because they feel able to connect emotionally to my subjects. Compared to when I work with models, it’s always the photos of real women that generate a lot of positive reactions and excitement.”

Months after our shoot in Paris, I was thrilled to find Carla busily growing her business, with exciting new projects in the works. Whether you dream of starting a new life in a foreign country, are interested in becoming a photographer, or just love gorgeous photos of Paris as much as I do, be sure to follow this fab creative entrepreneur for inspiration.

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For more about Carla Coulson, visit her website: carlacoulson

See the World Through Carla’s Lens

Carla Coulson’s gorgeous photography books take you along on her fabulous travels through France, Italy, Greece, India, and Australia. The exquisite hard-cover collections make a great addition to any coffee table.

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See yourself in one of Carla’s dreamy settings? Book your next photo-shoot in Paris by visiting her website here.


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