Olive Cotton

by Helen Ennis

On Sale: 21/10/2019


About the Book

A landmark biography of a singular and important Australian photographer, Olive Cotton, by an award-winning writer - beautifully written and deeply moving.

Olive Cotton was one of Australia's pioneering modernist photographers, whose significant talent was recognised as equal to her first husband, the famous photographer Max Dupain. Together, Olive and Max were an Australian version of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera or Ray and Charles Eames, and the photographic work they produced in the 1930s and early 1940s was bold, distinctive and quintessentially Australian.

But in the mid-1940s Olive divorced Max, leaving Sydney to live with her second husband, Ross McInerney, and raise their two children in a tent on a farm near Cowra - later moving to a cottage that had no running water, electricity or telephone for many years. Famously quiet, yet stubbornly determined, Olive continued her photography despite these challenges and the lack of a dark room. But away from the public eye, her work was almost forgotten until a landmark exhibition in Sydney in 1985 shot her back to fame, followed by a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2000, ensuring her reputation as one of the country's greatest photographers.

Intriguing, moving and powerful, this is Olive's story, but it is also a compelling story of women and creativity - and about what it means for an artist to try to balance the competing demands of their art, work, marriage, children and family.

'Absorbing ... illuminating and moving' Inside Story

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781460758342
  • ISBN 10: 146075834X
  • Imprint: 4th Estate - AU
  • On Sale: 21/10/2019
  • Pages: 544
  • List Price: 49.99 AUD
  • BISAC1: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Entertainment & Performing Arts


Helen Ennis was formerly Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia (1985-1992), going on to become Director of the Centre for Art History and Art Theory and Sir William Dobell Chair of Art History at ANU School of Art & Design (2014-18). She is currently Emeritus Professor.   Helen has worked extensively as a photography curator and writer. Since 2000 she has curated eight major exhibitions for the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia and other cultural institutions. Her many books include Photography and Australia (Reaktion), Reveries: Photography and Mortality (National Portrait Gallery). Her biography, Margaret Michaelis: Love, loss and photography (National Gallery), won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Non-Fiction and was judged Best Book by the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand, both in 2006. Helen's research on Cotton has been supported by the Australia Council Literature Board and the ABR George Hicks Foundation Fellowship; and related essays have been published in Meanjin and ABR.  www.helenennis.com  

More about the author

Author Events

Wednesday, April 1

Helen Ennis @ State Library of NSW, Olive Cotton, 9781460758342 by Helen Ennis will be featured on/at:

State Library of New South Wales, Corner of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place, Sydney, NSW, 2000