'Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind'
11 Jul 1911 - 27 Sep 2003
‘Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind’ appears to have been the only print Cotton made of this image. It was found in the late 1990s and has been shown only once, in an exhibition at the AGNSW in 2000 where it was also used on the catalogue cover. It was unusual for Cotton to print so large, yet it is entirely fitting that this monumental head and shoulder shot of a beautiful young woman should be presented in this way. The subject was a model on a fashion shoot at which Cotton was probably assisting. Cotton often took her own photographs while on such shoots and used them for her private portfolio. The photograph transcends portraiture, fashion and time to become a remarkable image of harmony with the elements.
Cotton took the title for this photograph from an 1895 poem by English poet Laurence Binyon, 'O summer sun':
O summer sun, O moving trees!
O cheerful human noise, O busy glittering street!
What hour shall Fate in all the future find,
Or what delights, ever to equal these:
Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind,
Only to be alive, and feel that life is sweet?1
A photographer whose work straddles pictorialism, modernism and documentary, Cotton maintained an independent vision throughout her working life, based on the close observation of nature. Her understanding of the medium of photography was not to do with capture, but rather ‘drawing with light’.
1. 1915, ‘Poems of today’, English Association, London p 96
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
gelatin silver photograph, vintage
33.2 x 30.0 cm image/sheet; 41.8 x 35.4 cm original mount
Signature & date
Signed l.r. mount, pencil "Olive Cotton". Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by John Armati 2006
Not on display
Shown in 3 exhibitions
What's in a face? aspects of portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2011–05 Feb 2012
The photograph and Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 21 Mar 2015–08 Jun 2015
Referenced in 3 publications
Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The photograph and portraiture', pg.15-31, Sydney, 2007, 17 (illus.), 28 (illus.).
Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 103 (colour illus.).
Helen Ennis, Olive Cotton, Sydney, 2000, cover (illus.), 64 (illus.).