Family Fragments, a new exhibition opening at the State Library of NSW from 13 February 2016, showcases newly discovered photographs by Olive Cotton.


Ross McInerney, 1942, one of the previously unknown photographs by Olive Cotton recovered by photographer and writer Sally McInerney.

The photographs were discovered by photographer and writer Sally McInerney when her aunt Haidee showed her a handful of damaged photographs which she had salvaged from her flooded garage in Gunnedah. Sally painstakingly pieced together the stories behind the photographs, along with her own collection, by interviewing family and friends over 10 years. The end result was a beautiful and haunting artist’s book which includes 11 rarely seen photos by Sally’s mother, the late Olive Cotton, one of Australia’s greatest photographers. It also reveals little-known aspects of Olive Cotton’s life after her marriage to photographer Max Dupain ended in separation in 1941. According to curator Avryl Whitnall, “little is known about Olive’s life after running Max Dupain’s Studio in the 1940s, and before she was ‘rediscovered’ as an Australian photographer of note in the 1980s. The artist’s book, now part of the Library’s collection, helps to fill in those gaps.”

The Family Fragments exhibition showcases the artist’s book in which Sally weaves together the fragments of photographs, amusing anecdotes from family and friends, letters, and her own memories, into a fascinating and tangled family history of love and loss. It opens at the State Library of NSW on 13 February and will remain on display until 8 May 2016. Entry is free. For more information visit