The Photographer’s Shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain) is a black and white gelatin silver photograph on paper, the sheet measuring 30.4 cm by 25.2 cm and the image 16.6 cm by 15.2 cm.

The photograph was taken circa 1935 by Olive Cotton; her shadow is cast over the bare upper body of Max Dupain who is lying on a beach.

Taken from a small distance and looking down onto Dupain’s body, he is is effectively upside down in the image. His waist meets the top edge of the photograph where a hint of a waistband is visible, his head half way down and in the centre. Light shines brightly on the sand all around him, it is flecked with multiple tiny pebbles, some black and others many gradients of lighter tones. The spare ripples of his ribs define the slim shape of Dupain’s chest, a dark nipple on our right stands out on an otherwise pale-skinned torso. Both his arms are stretched out so that his underarm hair is visible, his elbows are bent outside the image while both his hands cradle the top of his head, fingers splayed out. A small section of a striped towel is folded back on its self under his left shoulder.

Cotton’s dark silhouetted head covers Dupain’s upper chest in shadow; her neck his mouth, her shoulders his head and hands, so that these features are in sharp contrast to the sunlit areas of his body and some details are hard to distinguish. A small line of bottom teeth helps to define the large rectangular shape of his open mouth which is wide as if in exclamation. The lines around his nose down to his chin are deep and make an oval shape amplifying the dark void of his mouth. Dupain wears large white round-rimmed sunglasses, the top of his head and his hair is too shadowed to describe.

The outline of Cotton’s shadow is crisp. It suggests a head with short but full-bodied hair blown to the right, square shoulders, elbows out from her body and arms bent inwards to her waist, suggesting she is holding the camera against her stomach. Small triangles of light and sand peep through the spaces between her arms and body. Her broad hips are cropped by the bottom edge of the photograph.

Audio description written and recorded by Annette Twyman, 2021