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, a woman whose talent was recognised as equal to her first husband's, Max Dupain, and a significant artist in her own right. Together, Olive and Max could have been Australia's answer to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, or Ray and Charles Eames. The photographic work they produced during the 1930s and '40s was extraordinary and distinctively their own.

But in the early 1940s Cotton quit their marriage and Sydney studio to live with second husband Ross McInerney and raise their two children in a tent on a farm near Cowra - later moving to a hut that had no running water, electricity or telephone. Despite these barriers, and not having access to a darkroom, Olive continued her photography but away from the public eye. Then a landmark exhibition in Sydney in 1985 shot her back to fame, followed by a major retrospective at the AGNSW in 2000. Australian photography would never be same.

This is a moving and powerful story about talent, creativity and women, and about what it means for an artist to manage the competing demands of art, work, marriage, children and family.

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781460758342
  • ISBN 10: 146075834X
  • Imprint: 4th Estate - AU
  • On Sale: 21/10/2019
  • Pages: 496
  • List Price: 45.00 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  

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