2021 Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture

The Olive Cotton Award is generously funded by the family of Olive Cotton, one of Australia’s leading 20th Century photographers, showing new portraits by professional and emerging artists.

© D-Mo. Vice Versa, 2021. Digital print on Hahnemuhle photo rag. Acquired as the Winner of the Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© D-Mo. Vice Versa, 2021. Digital print on Hahnemuhle photo rag.
Acquired as the Winner of the Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

The Olive Cotton Award, recognising excellence in photographic portraiture, is held biennially, with a major prize of $20,000. The 2021 Award will be the twelfth Award since the prize's inception in 2005.

The Friends of Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre Inc. sponsor Director’s Choice awards to the value of $4,000. All awards are acquisitive, making the Olive Cotton Award an important collecting stream for the Tweed Regional Gallery’s collection of Australian portraits.

© Gerwyn Davies. Float, 2021. Archival inkjet print. Acquired as the Director’s Choice of the Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© Gerwyn Davies. Float, 2021. Archival inkjet print.
Acquired as the Director’s Choice of the Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

The 2021 Award judge was artist Michael Cook. Cook is one of Australia’s most significant photomedia artists. A Brisbane-based artist of Bidjara heritage, Cook has worked in photography for over 30 years.

A $250 People’s Choice Award will run throughout the exhibition allowing the public to vote for their favourite image. Voting closes Sunday 19 September 5 pm.

© Shea Kirk. Hairstory, 2020, pigment print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© Shea Kirk. Hairstory, 2020, pigment print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

About the award

The Olive Cotton Award was launched in 2005, and is funded by Olive Cotton’s family and dedicated to her memory as one of Australia’s leading twentieth century photographers. The Award has grown and gained national recognition attracting entries from well-known and emerging photographers across Australia. The award boasts a major acquisitive biennial prize of $20,000, selected by the Award judge.

© Craig Tuffin. THE SUPERS #2, 2020, archival pigment print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© Craig Tuffin. THE SUPERS #2, 2020, archival pigment print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© Rusty Crawshaw. The Dengs, 2021, pigment print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© Rusty Crawshaw. The Dengs, 2021, pigment print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

About Olive Cotton

Olive Cotton (1911-2003) discovered the art of photography in childhood and stayed committed to it all her life. Her mother was a talented painter who died young; her father, a geologist, had learnt the elements of photography for his journey to the Antarctic in 1907 and later taught it to his children.

Having graduated with an Arts degree, Olive Cotton worked successfully as a photographer at the Dupain studios in Sydney until the end of World War II, then moved with her new husband Ross McInerney, to the bush near Koorawatha, NSW. For 20 years she had no access to darkroom facilities, but kept taking photographs.

© Gerrit Fokkema. Merv In The Long Grass, Dubbo, 2020, archival inkjet print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© Gerrit Fokkema. Merv In The Long Grass, Dubbo, 2020, archival inkjet print.
Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

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. A major exhibition of Cotton's works was shown at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2000.

© Judith Martinez Estrada. Absent/Present, 2020, archival pigment ink on Hahnemühle photo rag. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.
© Judith Martinez Estrada. Absent/Present, 2020, archival pigment ink on Hahnemühle photo rag. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

Upcoming Events Submit an Event

April

Head to the the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney, to check out the winners and finalists from the 56th annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

September

Local photographers Peter Kervarec and Dylan Leak will lead a series of photo walks as part of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale throughout October and early November.

Eight artists from five Melbourne universities speak about their works in this annual showcase of emerging talent.

October

Along with the British Council, the National Portrait Gallery is hosting a free, virtual program – 'Capturing a global mood: National Portrait Galleries in conversation' – discussing the power of the photograph.