The symbolism in the Five of Wands suggests that there is form of conflict in one’s life. This may be an existing conflict or one that is brewing and may eventually blow up in one’s face. It may also depict a problem in communication, for example in a situation where no one really wants to listen to the other – meaning that no agreement or understanding takes place.
Olive Cotton Is regarded as was one of Australia’s pioneering modernist photographers.
Cotton was born in Sydney in 1911, daughter of Florence (pianist/painter) and Leo (geologist) both whom shared interest in photography. During early childhood, Cotton was privy to aspects of environment and developed a love of the world around her. At age 11, Cotton was given her first camera and her love of photography grew from this.
In 1934, Olive Cotton graduated from the university of Sydney and began working in the studio of Australian photographer Max Dupain, a childhood friend who she married. Cotton and Dupain had been childhood friends who grew up sharing a keen interest in the evolving medium of photography. Cotton and Dupain became romantically involved in 1928 and married in 1939. However marrying each other exposed them to some uncomfortable truths and they separated in 1941, eventually divorcing in 1944.
The Five of Wands shows us a battle of egos, people fighting to find out who is strongest. It may be presumptuous to suggest that a battle over egos was what divided this photographic couple, for in reality there were contributing factors outside their control. For example, in line with social convention, women were banned from working in the public service and other occupations in Australia after they married, so as soon as they married Cotton’s status changed.
On top of this was the accepted standard division of labour in which the husband was expected to be the breadwinner and the wife the homemaker and child-bearer. This meant Olive was no longer able to be fully immersed in the social and creative flux of studio life and was removed from the camaraderie and satisfaction that her work as the assistant had previously engendered.
Clearly there were other factors but the collective result was that their marriage did not last long. However, despite this, they did share a long and close personal and professional relationship. An exhibition looks of their work made between 1934 and 1945, the period of their professional association, reveals an exciting period of experimentation and growth in Australian photography. Cotton and Dupain were at the centre of these developments.