2021 Olive Cotton Award finalists announced

The Olive Cotton Award is a $20,000 biennial national award for excellence in photographic portraiture in memory of photographer Olive Cotton. This year, a total of 72 finalists have been selected from a record 605 entries.

Guest judge and photo media artist Michael Cook said the award provided an opportunity to capture recent experiences of place and time in a world irrevocably changed, not just by the pandemic but by global movements including those around climate change, multiculturalism, Black Lives Matter, gender fluidity and the treatment of women.

‘I believe so many of these issues take us to our identity and the fundamental question of who we are as individuals, as a society, as humans,’ Cook said.

‘These are global conversations that are unfolding powerfully in Australia – with our own characteristic flavour. Amid this groundswell, I believe an artist can provoke conversations. True art has the ability to challenge the perceptions of its audience, and a photograph has this power.’

Steph Connell, Ziggy, 2021, digital print. Courtesy the artist

The artists are vying for a $20,000 award for the overall winner, to be announced at the awards night on Saturday 17 July from 5pm. The announcement will be live-streamed on the Tweed Regional Gallery’s Facebook page.

2021 Award Coordinator and Curator of Public Programs Meredith Cusack was pleased to see entries from first-time entrants as well as established artists, particularly given the difficulties many have faced during lockdowns.

‘After such a challenging time, the ache for human connection that drives our fascination for portraiture felt all the more poignant. We were genuinely touched by the tenderness, thoughtfulness, humour and resilience portrayed in the entries,’ Cusack said.

Naomi Hobson, Super Hero Boy, 2021, archival ink on 310gms cotton rag. Courtesy the artist

For the first time in the history of this nationally-recognised, biennial competition, artists were able to submit up to two images for the award.


Jaka Adamic, Riste Andrievski, Karima Asaad, Katie Bennett, Madeline Bishop, Paul Blackmore, Jesse Boyd-Reid, Glen Braithwaite, Chris Budgeon, Hamish Cairns, Brett Canet-Gibson, Francis Cloake, Steph Connell, Rusty Crawshaw, Bob Crawshaw, Rowena Crowe, Gerwyn Davies, Max D’Orsogna, D-Mo, Stephen Dupont, Peter Eastway, Natalie Finney, Gerrit Fokkema, Mark Forbes, Anna Gottlieb, Gary Grealy, Kim Guthrie, JK Henshaw, Keef Hickey, Tim Hillier, Naomi Hobson, Kalyanii Holden, Tamsyn Houseman, Lyndal Irons, Suresh Jeanel, Camilla Johansson-Merrick, Pia Johnson, Tony Kearney, Ingvar Kenne, Bronwyn Kidd, Shea Kirk, Lucy Knox, Sarina Lirosi, Peta Lumley, Paula Mahoney, Isobel Markus-Dunworth, Judith Martinez Estrada, Gregory McBean, Mia Mala McDonald, Viki Murray, Wendy McDougall, Isabella Moore, Xavier-Finn Negrello, Tajette O’Halloran, Glenn Porter, Cal Power, Ilana Rose, Robin Sellick, Russell Shakespeare, Laki Sideris, Linelle Stepto, Jacqui Stockdale, Suellen Symons, Hamish Ta-mé, Craig Tuffin, Chelle Wallace, Clare Weeks, Greg Weight, Ilsa Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd, Yiorgos Zafiriou, and Anne Zahalka.

All 72 finalists will be on display at Tweed Regional Gallery from 16 July to 22 September 2021.