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Olive Cotton 
Distant hills 
1935 (ca) 
Gelatin silver print 
17.6 x 10.6 cm (image) 21.4 x 16.4 cm (sheet) 
Art Gallery of New South Wales 
Purchased with funds provided by Cameron Williams 2013, Accession number: 126.2013 
Curatorial description (Accessed: 14 January 2019)
Celebrated Australian photographer Olive Cotton was given her first Box Brownie by her family for her eleventh birthday (1922) and continued to experiment with taking and developing pictures throughout the 1920s. By the early 1930s Cotton had mastered the Pictorialist style so popular at the time and was on her way to establishing her own approach which also incorporated Modernist principles. The recurrent themes of landscape and plant-life are important to the photographer’s approach, which photography scholar Helen Ennis describes as Cotton’s concern for the ‘potential for pattern-making’.
‘Distant hills’ is perhaps one of Cotton’s most inconclusive and abstract photographs, for it prevents us from gaining a definitive understanding of precisely what we are looking at. This is achieved through Cotton’s playing with scale, namely by the use of a flower that is much larger than the landscape with which it is montaged (which includes trees and the ‘distant hills’). A rare and little-seen work, it is a fine example of Olive Cotton’s skill as a printer as well as being suggestive of her conceptual concerns as a photographer. 

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