My blog is deeply anchored in the geography outside my door. There is something all pervasive about Mediterranean life that can’t be shut out of any creative project I undertake, whether photography or perfume making. As I write, I hear the baroque church bells tolling, the stray street cats fighting and the fish hawker’s cries from the piazza nearby. Every now and then, this blog shares vignettes of the Mediterranean that inspire me and this post is just one of those stories.
There is something I know I share with Carla Coulson, the photography diva at the heart of today’s post, and it isn’t managing to get that perfect shot. That’s her domain. I still have to fathom the settings of my dslr before clicking the shutter on a wing and a prayer. More often than not, that fleeting and intensely beautiful Mediterranean moment has passed. Lovers have kissed, the priest has walked off two paces after bending to speak to a child and the fishermen have hauled in their catch all before I seize the moment.
What Carla and I do share as passionately however is a near life-long love of the Mediterranean sea and all things Italian.
I live in Malta, an island-city state a mere 30 minutes hop from Sicily. Before Malta, I spent 18 months shuttling nearly every other weekend to Rome, where my then partner was based. Probably at around the same time as I was in Rome, Carla, Australian-born (and therefore with surf in her blood) was learning her photography craft in Italy. She then met an Italian and moved to Paris where her partner’s studies took him. Now, you might move the gals from Italy but the allure of the ‘mezzogiorno’ or southern Italy in particular, won’t budge from our hearts.
Carla Coulson is a photographer I’ve followed now for several years, adoring her charming, disarming and captivating photos of life in Puglia, where her husband’s origins lie, and her Naples’ portfolio, now a book that I’ve yet to get my hands on. In fact, her images of Naples with all its heart-on-the-sleeve street life, religiosity and rawness persuaded me to visit the city last year. Her camera didn’t lie; it did complete justice to the beauty of the place and openness of its people, yet as photography is art and craft, her eye and lens capture scenes that I couldn’t hunt out and replicate even if I’d wished to. Carla’s sensitivity comes from knowing Italy as an insider able to bond with her subjects and chuckle with them not at them as they go about their everyday lives. There is a joy in each image and a sense of being there right in among the Italians – or rather the Napolitani, Pugliesi, Amalfitani as they’d call themselves as Italy is a country of proud regions.
Today, I discovered Carla Coulson’s latest set of limited edition prints and downed tools. Her ‘Vacanza Italiana’ series depicting summer life on the beaches of those southern Mediterranean haunts from coasts east and west are a study in organised chaos. Having spent 20 years on similar beaches here in Malta, I can even hear the calls of “Dai Davide, vieni’ as a mother shouts to a child wading out too far, and I can smell the canned tuna in those focaccie being unwrapped. Carla’s photo of Polignana below could easily be the small creek I swim in, just 8 minutes from home. Boat houses (often illegally built in the case of Malta) double as fully-equipped beach ‘huts’; imagine how much they’d cost if on some windswept, but ‘chic chic’ British beach!
The Maltese and Italians are ‘brothers’ on beaches when it comes to behaviour; don’t expect distance between you and the large family group that’s just set up stall for the day, and night! Our islands also happen to be invaded by Italian holidaymakers every year for two weeks around the 15th August Ferragosto holiday, which is the big shutdown in this part of the world. And I get fully what Carla means when she says “…There are standing conversations in knee deep water that go on for hours and vigorous card-games on make shift tables. There is passion, laughter, happiness and pure enjoyment.”
While I am still swimming here in Malta in late October and the sea is balmy warm, that magic atmosphere of summer true has passed for this year. Gone are those family groups with BBQ and the old folk bobbing immersed in the water for hours, chatting as if in the piazza. What a joy then to see those memories relived in Carla’s images today as her post alert dropped into my email. As summer fades even here in the Mediterranean, its echoes are heard in vision if not in voice.
Win a Vacanza Italiana Print by Carla Coulson
Carla is offering a chance to win one of her Vacanza Italiana limited edition prints valued at 670 Euros (size: 32″ x 48″inch or 91 x 137cm) of your choice that she says ‘will give you the sensation you might want to dive into it’. To enter, see full details here on Carla’s blog.
All images © Carla Coulson