Olive Cotton Award

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.

  • 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)

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The next Olive Cotton Award will be held in 2023.

2021 Award About the award Past awards 

2021 Olive Cotton Award - winners and awards

2021 Olive Cotton Award conditions of entry(PDF, 386KB)

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

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

Highly Commended

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
  • Craig Tuffin for THE SUPERS #2

Exhibition catalogue

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

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.

Past awards