Alys Tomlinson is an award-winning editorial and fine art photographer based in London. Having grown up in Brighton, Alys went on to study English Literature and Communications at the University of Leeds. After graduating, she moved to New York for a year and was given her first commission for Time Out, before coming back to London to study photography at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She has recently completed a part-time MA in Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage (Distinction) at SOAS, University of London, which ties in with her long-term, personal project about pilgrimage. Alys combines commissioned work for editorial, design and advertising clients with personal work, which she publishes and exhibits. Alys Tomlinson was named Sony World Photography Awards Photographer of the Year 2018.
The Background to the Ex-Voto Project
In 1858 in small village in the foothills of the Pyrenees, a young peasant girl named Bernadette witnessed a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Now around six million pilgrims flock to Lourdes every year. Schedules are tightly followed and include visits to the grotto, bathing in holy water at the baths, attending mass and gathering each evening at dusk for the candlelight procession. Every visitor has an individual story and Lourdes attracts people from all backgrounds and generations. Most leave with some sense of spiritual healing, while the sick often feel a renewed strength in facing their illness. This project aims to tell the stories of those who go to Lourdes and to create a narrative between the people and the landscape, the light and the dark and the spirituality and sense of hope that permeates the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Ex-Voto Naomh Ghobnatan
Ex-Voto Naomh Ghobnatan is an extension of Alys previous work in Lourdes. Still intrigued by this place of great spiritual contemplation and worship, she re-visited the project with a different approach. Shooting in large format black and white slowed the process down and gave her space to think. Using anthropological experience gained during her MA, she became interested in the markers left behind at pilgrimage sites. Placed anonymously and often hidden from view, Ex-Voto are offerings left by pilgrims as signs of gratitude, hope and devotion, creating a tangible narrative between faith, person and the landscape. Taken at the pilgrimage site of Reilig Ghobnatan, Ballyvourney (Ireland), the project encompasses formal portraiture, large format landscape and small, detailed still-lifes of the objects and markers left behind.