Olive COTTON, Max Enlarge 1 /1


Australia 1911 – 2003

Max c.1935 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph Support: gloss photographic paper on cream textured cardboard

Primary Insc: signed on backing sheet l.r., pencil "Olive Cotton" titled on backing sheet l.l., pencil "Max"
Dimensions: printed image 14.8 h x 14.5 w cm sheet 14.8 h x 14.5 w cm backing sheet 19.8 h x 18.7 w
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1998
Accession No: NGA 98.167

In this highly abstracted portrait, Cotton seems to present Dupain as an athlete – perhaps, with his strangely extended arms, a hammer thrower, in an image that predates by at least two years Dupain’s own photographs of athletes outdoors. It is likely that Cotton photographed her friend in this way because of the graphic pictorial effect she wished to achieve. Cotton exploits the shape of the Rolleiflex camera’s square-format film: Dupain’s body cuts across the right-hand corner of the picture, from which his overstretched forearms (the shape and tone of which were the result of much dodging and burning in the darkroom) create a diagonal oblique angle that is classically modernist. A similar conflation of diagonal lines, which was common to the ways that modern life in Australia at the time was represented in advertising and architectural photography, can also be seen in pictures such as Surf’s edge and Teacup ballet.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra