THE LIFE OF OLIVE COTTON (1911-2003)
10 years ago, in October 2003, Australian photographer Olive Cotton died in a hospital in Cowra, Australia, with her second husband Ross McInerney by her side.
She discovered the art of photography in her childhood and stayed committed to it all her life.
"My mother was a very artistic person and my younger sister was good at drawing and painting and I was hopeless. And I felt like something wanted to burst out of its shell and I didn’t know how to go about it. And then one of my father’s younger sisters said, 'Somebody has given me a wonderful new camera for my birthday, could you use this little Box brand number?' And that was a big thrill and I still have negatives made by that.”
She has a long history going back to the 1930s, when her modernist Teacup Ballet was hung in London, along with her landscapes, Light and Shade and Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind and the portrait of her first husband Max Dupain, called Max After Surfing.
OLIVE COTTON & MAX DUPAIN
Cotton and Dupain were childhood friends and, although she graduated in English and mathematics from the University of Sydney in 1934, her interest in photography led her to work in Dupain’s studio from this year. She was employed as a photographer’s assistant in the studio, however she worked assiduously on her own work and continued to exhibit in photography salon exhibitions.
Cotton married Max Dupain in 1939, though the marriage lasted only two years. Cotton managed Dupain’s Sydney studio during World War II (with Dupain away on service) before she married Ross McInerney and moved to the bush near Koorawatha. For 20 years she had no access to darkroom facilities, but kept taking photographs. She resumed her professional career in 1963.
In 1964, Cotton opened a small studio in Cowra and took local portraits, weddings and commissions. After a 40 year absence from the city art scene she re-emerged in 1985 with her first solo show at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney, she then concentrated on rediscovering and printing her life’s work. (read more: +, +, +)
#1: Surf’s edge, ca. 1935
#2: Max (Dupain) in shadows, ca.1935
#3: Interior - Shadow from my window, 1933
#4: The patterned road, 1938
#5: Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind, ca. 1939
#6: The Budapest String Quartet, 1937
#7: Woolloomooloo free kindergarten, ca. 1939
#8+9: Portraits of Olive Cotton, Koorawatha, New South Wales, 1992