Artists, Influencing Me, Photography

Influencing Me – Olive Cotton

Perhaps, I thought, it was time I did one of these posts on a woman.  Another Australian Photographer and one who worked about the same time as last week’s photographer, Max Dupain.  Really, it is hard to think of Max Dupain without thinking of Olive Cotton.  Indeed she worked in his studio for some time and they were married breifly.

00222443She photographed him working, and when you look at his work you will see photos of Cotton in amongst them.

tumblr_mdjn1qx2U81qiclreo1_500I have shown you this image before, and said how much I love it and what it represents to me.  The way she has lit it and the shadows are so strong.  The title always got me as well, Teacup Ballet.  It has always been something that interested me, the idea of turning inanimate objects into some more real, as though they really do have personalities and may be like humans.

tumblr_miw8lbVeLz1qe0lqqo2_r1_1280Similar to the one above.  What is the image really about, the glasses or the shadow? I would imagine both, but the way the light casts the shadow of the glasses is wonderful and I have strived to get similar results, but as yet I’ve had no luck.

Popup_800When I looked her up on Google Images, I was amazed at the variety of her work.  You tend to think a photographer will do just one type of image, which is ridiculous, but still you think that.  I had no idea that she did images like this.  Though she obviously liked still life, the previous two images are testament to that.

It is also strange looking at this images and seeing the effects that film had on them, the grain.

51uju9Me41L._SL500_SS500_The cover of a book or a poster, I don’t really know, but the image on it is stunning.  I see so many people attempting to take images of these or similar plants, and they are wonderful.  I do love her black background and the way you simply focus on the plant.  I can’t think of the name of them now.  I know you blow them in the wind.

322.1996##SThis image was a lovely surprise.  I have taken so many images like this myself, it was wonderful to see one from her.  Makes me feel not so crazy.  The mood an image like this evokes is wonderful.  The eeriness of the scene, and the way the trees in the foreground dominate the image.  I think it is just brilliant.

Teacup Ballet - OriginalOf course, I had to show you my own attempt at imitating one of her images.  I am not going to go into whether or not it works, just put in Olive Cotton in the search at the top and you can see past posts on this image.

The image of hers is what drew me to her, and it was important to me to see if I could do an image that was similar to her.  The lighting was so important and I think, in the end, it was that which lets this image down.  I don’t have the studio lighting that she would have had.  I don’t think going out to buy lighting just for an image like this is warranted.  It has made me think, and you start to realise how important lighting really is.

Scraggy, Craggy Tree - Silver Efex 1When I saw that image of the trees with the stormy sky, this image came to mind.  I think it has a similar feel.

Wasted - 3This is another one I thought of, this one more so than the other.  It is like a desolate country, with no hope of a future.  I think it conveys that, as does the one by Cotton.

Finally I have an image of her.

lg_Olive_Cotton-L_GrahamI don’t actually know who took this image, but it says L Graham, so I assume that is the photographers name.  She looks like a lovely person, and someone I wish I had known. She died in 2003 at the age of 92.   What a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

I have been doing some research on her for this post and I believe I may have to do more.  She looks like a woman photographer who I would like to know a lot more about.

Etsy Shop

I just wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone for the support of the new Etsy Shop, if click on Etsy shop it should take you to it, I hope.  I just want to say I really appreciate it.


  1. The recreations look great. I appreciate how you shared your sources of inspiration. :)

  2. Thank you so very much for sharing her work. I am in awe of her images. Such inspiration!

  3. newenglandfoundme says

    Hello! The plant that’s so beautifully captured is a dandelion. This is a great post! Thanks for the exposure to a wonderful female photographer.

  4. Hiro says

    Just one word “Amazing” Thank you for sharing

  5. She’s amazing.

    I get it about the tea cups and I scrolled back up to see what her lighting was like. I don’t know anything about lighting (or photography really) but it looks like she has a precise flood light and I agree it’s a stunning and startling photo.

    However, when I came to your version at first I thought it was also hers, just a different take on it and my first reaction, I’m being honest, was “Oh, I like this better. It’s warmer and there’s a glow.” Like how you had the doorways glowing in yesterday’s post. And the tower in the school for deaf children, and the view out the window of the tower, and so many others.

    I guess I like yellow light more than white light and I guess I like more feeling and emotion. Her work is breathtaking, and humbling, but so is yours!

  6. Great post! I didn’t know Olive Cotton before reading it, but I will surely do some more research as well.

  7. So happy to have found your blog, and thanks for visiting mine. Really love these images–makes me want to do more work in black and white.

  8. Thank you for this beautiful post and to introduce me with her… I loved all photographs, they are amazing and so artistic. Love, nia

  9. Wow, I hadn’t heard of her before, but I just adore the photos you’ve shown us here. I’m now an Olive Cotton fan….she seems to be drawn to similar subjects as me, trees and a true in all her moods, and the play of shadows and light. Thanks so much for the introduction :-)

  10. She was a marvelous photographer. Those are some power shots. What a legacy.

  11. Nice! Love that teacup ballet and see the resemblance in the barren trees photo of yours with hers! Thanks for sharing her work too, greetings, Ron.

  12. I imagine someone else has mentioned that its a dandelion. Great shot, in fact I love all her work – thankyou for showing it and your landscapes in the similar vein. Really nice.

    • Thank you, I have never been to Wales, but it is definitely on my list of places I want to go. Every time I see photos or tv shows set there, I just want to go. Lucky you to live there.

  13. Wonderful tribute, and gorgeous photos – so nice to have this kind of thoughtful consideration brought to a photographer’s work, especially a woman somehow…

  14. I remember the teacups well, and it’s good to learn more about the photographer who inspired that image…
    The flower – though most ’round here call it ‘a weed’ – is a dandelion :)

    • Yes, it is a weed here too, thanks for the name. All I could remember was you hold it up and blow. My mind is showing its age.

  15. Thank you for sharing this. Lovely images and your own recreations are impressive too. Thank you.

  16. Dandelion was my first impression, but after a longer look, I don’t think so. The ID I’d put on the seed head is goatsbeard (which in the garden is salsify)…it is very similar to dandelion, but there are definite differences. . Wiki says goatsbeard has been introduced to your continent, and is invasive in some places. Dandelion heads are more spherical and more tightly packed with seeds. A dandelion stem is stocky and fleshy, and the stem in the photo in your blog is thin in comparison. The goatsbeard seeds are fewer on each head, and make a distinctive pattern, rather than the fluff blending together to make a more uniform mass as is the case with dandelion.

    • You know, I looked at it and thought it doesn’t seem quite the same, so I think you are definitely right. How wonderful. Thank you.

  17. Gorgeous! I love the way she works with light and shadow. The mood of these shots is melancholy, but so nice.

  18. I’ve never hear of Olive Cotton but I have to say I like her style…you have your own wonderful style…even when being influenced by another!!! I particularly love the gnarly barren tree photos… while not of her/your calibre, I’ve taken photos similiar to this, …the trees fascinate me…

  19. Thanks for the introduction to this amazing photographer. The way she captures those shadows …

  20. Another great post Leanne – thanks for giving an insight to Olive Cotton’s work and describing how you have interpreted some of her spirit in your own work – it’s fascinating.

  21. Thanks for the introduction to Olive Cotton, whom I hadn’t heard of. In reading about her on the Internet, I see that “the family home was set on 20 acres of natural bushland in the outer Sydney suburb of Hornsby.” In the eastern reaches of Austin (Texas) there’s a Hornsby Bend that photographers of birds and butterflies frequent.

    Beyond photography, it struck me that Olive Cotton’s two names are both plants, and that in French the name of the photographer you mentioned from last time means bread. Then too, the very word photography means light-writing.

    • Haha, that’s brilliant, glad you did some research, I love that light-writing, I will have to write that down so I don’t forget, thank you.

  22. This is such an interesting blog post thank you for introducing us to Olive Cotton! Your photographs are so great too! : )

  23. What is it about the starkness of naked trees? Something clarifying about them. Not creepy or dark. Some how pleasing.

  24. Stunning Work! I especially love black and white compositions. Thanks for liking my blog. I am more of a writer than a photographer (my Dad is my inspiration in that area), but I like to think an artist is an artist, so I dabble in whatever interests me.
    I love your blog format, and look forward to seeing more of your posts! Peace.

    • I agree, an artist is an artist and we inspire one another. My daughter is a writer as well. Well she is still at school, but her word skills are so good. Thanks

  25. Evez says

    I love how you play with light and shadows! :) great pictures!

  26. Stunning pictures!
    I always thought the less colour you use, the more pictures can say. Now I know that I was right :)

    • I don’t know that is always right, I think Olive used B&W because there wasn’t colour when she worked, who knows what she would use now. I like both.

  27. Pingback: Influencing Me – Olive Cotton | clumsyfool

  28. Thanks for this post – I found it inspiring and nice too that you bring such wonderful artists to out attention!!

  29. Leanne, I LOVE the one of the trees that you took, the one you describe as “desolate” land. It is absolutely marvelous. I love photographing trees, and have taken many pictures of them this winter because their branches are so erie! wonderful !

  30. I love the narrative you’ve provided with this Leanne and good for you trying your own version of the teacups…it’s softer and I think the big difference is the angle the teacup handles are lit from in Olive’s image giving the impression of a hand on a hip – but I really like your version too!

  31. I very much enjoyed this post about the female photographer you admire. Excellent photos–and I enjoyed perusing yours, as well. Thanks as well for visiting my blog and “liking” my poem about spring/transitions of the heart/nature walks. I will be back to visit your site to see more fine pictures.

  32. Pingback: Project 365 – Day 70 Playing with Shadow | Palimpsest

  33. Leanne – your photographs are beautiful. Thank you for highlighting Olive’s work – she took my parent’s wedding photographs in 1964; in fact, Mum was proud to say that she was the 1st bride photographed by Olive Cotton.

  34. Thank you for a wonderful post and for sharing the work of this artist. I was unfamiliar with her work but am inspired to look deeper.

  35. Stuart says

    the Teacup Ballet is one of the greatest still life photos Ive ever seen….thanks so much for posting

  36. Dream, Pray and Love says

    Amazing photos! You bring out the beauty in these moments you’ve captured! I love your blog:) Thanks a lot for liking my posts!:) Great to find you here!

  37. I absolutely love the glasses photo, the subject, the composition and the elongated shadow. You gave me an idea. Thank you for sharing.

  38. the game between the objects and their shadows is achieving rather amazing effects, thanks for sharing

  39. Wonderful blog. Olive Cotton’s work is very nice and matches nicely with my tastes in photography, as does your own. Can’t wait for some of your tree photographs to make it to your postcard section.

    • Thank you, what a fantastic thing to say. I love those trees, though hadn’t thought of making postcards with them. I wouldn’t mind photographing them again. I did them very quickly and without much thought, but I do love them, so I might have to go back the next time I am up that way.

  40. Hi Leanne, thanks for liking my post Changing Tide and for introducing me to Olive Cotton. Great post!

  41. Thanks for the introduction to Olive Cotton’s work; she was unknown to me until today. Her teacup and eyeglasses shadow portraits are extraordinary.

    • I think the Influences me posts are great for reasons like this, some know the artist, like the reintroduction and others have never known them and get introduced to artists that haven’t heard of. It was my pleasure to introduce someone as great as Olive Cotton. I am really glad you liked her work.

    • Yes, I think you could be right, great photos as well. There are so many wonderful photographers out there, I will have to take a closer look. Thank you for sending that through.

  42. Thank you, Leanne. Great post. And I am sure somebody has already mentioned, but the plant is dandelion. And nice weekend to you and your camera :)

    • No, thank you, glad you enjoyed it, and yes it has already been mentioned, but thank you anyway. Same to you. :)

  43. THANK YOU for stopping by my blog and inadvertently leading me here. What an amazing photographer and an amazing woman! Teacup ballet changes my neural processing! xx Angela

  44. Thanks for your comments on my work.
    I really love the tonal contrasts and lighting effects on your photos.

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