It all started when he was around six years old. Carlan's father, using a Kodak camera, taught him how to make photographs. Family road trips across the country put the excitement of travel into his blood. Later a dirt bike got Carlan motorized on two wheels.
In the late seventies, Carlan had the privilege of assisting Ansel Adams for three years. That's where he learned the power of the photograph. He has always appreciated the magnificent landscape. Perhaps being a descendent of the Wicomico Tribe he learned to respect the earth and its life early on. Attending Art Center College of Design nudged Carlan's photography career in a commercial direction. Shortly thereafter, he opened a studio in Seattle photographing food and products for advertising and magazines. When digital photography emerged, his studio was one of the first to embrace the new technology. This led to a unique opportunity to beta test Apple's first laptop computers and photography software.
In 2002 Carlan relocated with his wife, Nancy, to Santa Fe, NM. In 2005 they founded Naamehnay Project-Question of Power, a Federal 501c3 non-profit. For the past twelve years Carlan has documented and provided visual voices for individuals, families and communities affected by coal. In addition to photographing for magazines and publications, he shares the wonder of photography with students from around the world at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, National Geographic Workshops and Smithsonian Journeys. He is represented globally by Redux Pictures, NY. His photographs are in public and private collections nationally as well as Australia, China, France and Spain.