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Olive Cotton Essay

Olive cotton is an Australian photographer who produced magnificent photography for over 60 years. She was born on 11 July 1911 in Hornsby, Sydney. On her 11th birthday Olive Cotton was given a Kodak camera from her father who taught her all the basics of photography. Her father helped her turn the home laundry into a dark room to produce photographs. Cotton had no prior experience with photography. In her darkroom Cotton processed films and produced her first black and white image.

While on holidays with her family in Newport Beach Cotton met Max Dupain, whom she later married for two years in 1939, and they became friends, sharing a passion for photography. In 1941 Olive Cotton was asked to manage Dupains studio while he was called to service in war, she accepted and worked as a professional photographer. Olive Cotton got remarried and moved away to Cowra. When she moved away from Dupains studio Cotton did not have access to a dark room for twenty years, but continued to take photos.

She later had a child and opened a small photographic studio. Cotton is noted as one of Australia’s most notorious photographers and visual artists with her work show casing in Australia and multiple international exhibitions. Cotton passed away in the first week of October 2003. Vapour Trail 1991 In this image Cotton has captured a surreal moment. The use of black and white exaggerates the scene and gives of a cold and dark feeling. The photo Vapour Trail 1991 was taken from a low angle shot.

Taking the image from this angle allows Cotton to include the vapour trail and the clouds in the sky and environment around it. The vapour trail which runs from the top right corner to the bottom left corner give a deep depth of field, the trail has a rough, grainy texture throughout it and consists of many distorted lines. The light source is coming from the bottom right highlighting the clouds. Also included in the photograph is a line of trees and shrubs in the foreground.

The foreground is very dark and blacked out with no lighting, only showing the outline of the trees and shrubs. In the background there is a large body of water and another line of trees, shrubs and land. The top right corner is faded into darkness. My gaze focuses at the top of the image and trails down along the vapour trail to where I noticed the trees and the bright lighting coming through the faded clouds. I really like how the lighting in the corner outlines the trees and shrubs leaving the fill black.

Fashion shot, Cronulla Sandhill’s 1937 Fashion shot by Olive Cotton consists of many elements. The photo is in black and white consisting mostly of bright shades giving of a very happy mood. Cotton has taken the photograph at a long shot and eyelevel shot. Using these types of shots allowed her to involve the full body of the model, her first husband (Max Dupain), the sky, sand and the distant shore line. The model in the centre of the image wearing a flowing dress is the first place I laid my eyes on.

Due to the way the models arm is bent the next place my eyes lead to is Dupain Photographing the model for a magazine shoot. The image also includes the natural foot prints imbedded into the white luscious sand. The ripples and prints in the sand continue in to the shadows of the model and Dupain. The foreground of the image is very clear with even lighting throughout it. The background of the photograph includes a cloudy sky and a shore line of dark trees in the distance.

Judging by the shadows the lighting comes from the left side of the image causing the entire centre of the image to be brighter while the top boarders are very dark. I really like the way Cotton has taken a photo in the moment; I also enjoy the Polaroid framing and free hand script on the border. Olive Cotton is a brilliant photography who can take a simple object and make it a beautiful piece of art with it. Even without having and official education in photography, Cotton has produced some of Australia’s most well-known and notorious images in history.


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