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Winner of the 2021 Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture

The Olive Cotton Award is a $20,000 biennial national award for excellence in photographic portraiture in memory of photographer Olive Cotton. The exhibition is selected from entrants across Australia and is a significant opportunity for established and emerging photographers. The winning work is acquired for the Gallery’s collection. The guest judge for 2021 was photo-media artist Michael Cook.

The 2021 winner is D-Mo for the portrait Vice Versa.

2021 winner Vice Versa

D-Mo (b.1977), Vice Versa, 2021. Digital print on Hahnemuhle photo rag. Acquired as the Winner of the Olive Cotton Award, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

Gallery Director Susi Muddiman OAM awarded the 2021 Director’s Choice to Gerwyn Davies for the portrait Float.

2021 Director's Choice Float

Gerwyn Davies (b.1985), Float, 2021. Archival inkjet print. Acquired as the Director’s Choice of the Olive Cotton Award, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

Guest judge Michael Cook awarded Highly Commended to Rusty Crawshaw for The Dengs; Shea Kirk for Hairstory; Gerrit Fokkema for Merv in the Long Grass, Dubbo; Judith Martinez Estrada for Absent/Present; and Craig Tuffin for THE SUPERS #2.

Rusty Crawshaw (b.1987), The Dengs, 2021, pigment print. Highly Commended Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

Shea Kirk (b.1985), Hairstory, 2020, pigment print. Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

Gerrit Fokkema (b.1954), Merv In The Long Grass, Dubbo, 2020, archival inkjet print. Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

Judith Martinez Estrada (b.1973) Absent/Present, 2020, archival pigment ink on Hahnemühle photo rag. Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

Craig Tuffin (b.1969) THE SUPERS #2, 2020, archival pigment print. Olive Cotton Award, 2021.

The 2021 People’s Choice Award winner is Tamsyn Houseman for Portrait of Annie 2021

2021 People’s Choice Award winner

Image Credit Tamsyn Houseman (b.2003), Portrait of Annie, 2021. Digital print.

Frequently asked questions

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First prize $20,000 acquisitive

Director’s Choice purchases up to wholesale value of $4,000

People’s Choice $250 (announced at end of exhibition)

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. In addition, the Friends of the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre Inc. fund $4000 for the acquisition of portraits from the exhibition entries to be chosen by the Gallery Director. Visitors to the exhibition may also vote for their 'people’s choice', which awards $250 to the most popular finalist.

The Gallery thanks art dealer Josef Lebovic and photographer Sally McInerney, Olive Cotton’s daughter, for their ongoing support of the Award and also the Friends of the Gallery committee for their contributions, both financial and practical, to the Award and public program events. We also thank the many volunteers who assist with the huge task of receiving and despatching artworks and many other facets of the Prize organisation.

A short biography of 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.

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.

Adapted from information provided by Sally McInerney, May 2005.

Olive Cotton

Olive Cotton

Past awards

Past winners

Belinda Mason

Taken 2019


Trent Parke

Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner 2013

pigment print

Emily Portman

The Stone 2008

Justine Varga

Maternal Line 2017

chromogenic hand printed photograph from 5 x 4 inch negative

Tamara Dean

Damien Skipper 2011

pure pigment print on rag paper

George Fetting

Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, former Mufti of Australia – Lakemba 2007

Natalie Grono

Pandemonium's shadow 2015

pigment inkjet print

Richard O'Farrell

Savitri 2009

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