Caro Cuinet Wellings grew up in a small village near Aix-en-Provence but from a young age knew that she would travel, live abroad and speak English. “And that is what I did. During my LLCE degree at the Université de Lettres of Aix en Provence, I came across a poster advertising a Post Graduate Certificate of Education. That led me to St. Martin’s University in Lancaster to be a secondary school teacher, teaching French as a foreign language. I began that career in August 2000 in Kenya.” By 2009, she was teaching at the International School in Dubai, married and welcoming her first daughter.
“Teaching filled my life, it really did,” Caro says, “and I was a good at it. But when the possibility of moving to Malaysia came up, I decided to explore a new path for myself and stepped away from my 12-year career in education. The move to Kuala Lumpur was tough as I embarked on setting up a photography business, with little knowledge of how to run one, barely the skills to take photos and without the support of friends there.”
After the birth of her second daughter in March 2014, Caro suffered post-natal depression. “We spent six years in Kuala Lumpur, it is a place paved by fabulous friendships, fantastic trips, even better food, but also big heartaches, discoveries and great courage.” The family relocated to France in 2018 and Caro describes it as “perhaps the hardest move I have ever had to make. To put it simply, I felt like an expat in my home country.”
She focused on the teaching and coaching side of her photography business. Fast forward four years, she runs two workshops a year on creativity, light and building a visual identity as a photographer. Her online course on the Empara platform has motivated family photographers and somehow the mom of two has found time to develop a one-on-one coaching program. This is all in addition to her group mentoring day, where photographers can experience everything from pre-shoot to photo delivery.
“My scope has grown. I shoot families in their homes but have loved taking lifestyle photos of private chefs and maison d’hôtes. I also photograph clothing collections working as part of a team with an agency in Barcelona and work with big education companies for their marketing materials.”
Caro says “our potential for learning is bottomless” and that anyone can develop a photographer’s eye. “I believe in having a vocabulary to help name what we see, so we can understand how elements of a scene work together. No need for a fancy camera to be able to do this, as our eyes are really the key – observing, taking the time to see, to name and to put things together.”
“I once said to my now 13-year-old daughter: ‘I have a book in me.’ I didn’t know which book or what it was going to be about.” During lockdown in Eze in April 2020, Caro invited photographers to join her to find light. “Hundreds of photographers followed the project that consisted in taking and publishing one photo a day. The aim was to photograph the confinement but always trying to find the light and improve technique and art. I am so happy and humbled to have been able to gather a supportive and creative community during a time that was really difficult for some of us.”
The challenge led her to revisit the “book in me”. In 2021, she saw the amount of content she had created. “I had sent many newsletters about photography techniques but also about mindsets and how to cope with challenges, where and how to find creativity and inspiration. I had interviews with colleagues recorded on podcasts and countless pages of notes that had piled over the years doing the challenges. And, of course, some 600 photos created for them.”
By the end of the year, she said to herself saisi mon courage à deux mains and wrote a pitch to Eyrolles, a publishing house that specialises in editing photography books. “I started writing in February 2022 when I got the go ahead and now it’s going to print nine months later. My third baby!”
She knew she would travel and learn English. She knew she would write a book. What next for Caro? “I always have projects swirling around in my head. I have dreams of exhibitions of the work created for the challenge, setting up a yearly festival with a conference around it and let it be a forum for exciting learning and human experiences. I want to continue to photographing families and women entrepreneurs. I want to continue my work with other photographers in my workshops or via coaching and see them grow and blossom in what they do. I feel a lot of happiness seeing them in their own paths for the success they have designed for themselves.”
All photos courtesy Caro Cuinet Wellings.