Alys Tomlinson was born 1975 in Brighton, UK, and currently lives and works in London, UK. Alys studied English Literature and Communications at the University of Leeds and photography at Central Saint Martins. She recently completed an MA (Distinction) in Anthropology at SOAS, University of London. Alys is interested in the relationship between people and place, exploring themes of environment, belonging and identity. Her work has been included in over twenty international exhibitions, most recently at the Rencontres d’Arles festival, Somerset House and National Portrait Gallery, London. She was named Sony World Photographer of the Year 2018 for her series Ex-Voto and the work was published by GOST Books in 2019.
A handwritten note folded and tucked in the crevice of a rock, crosses scratched onto stone, and piles of twigs carefully wrapped in ribbon. Each item is an offering of religious devotion, known as an ‘ex-voto’ (from the Latin ‘ex voto suscepto’, ‘by reason of the vow made’), left anonymously at sacred sites by pilgrims worldwide. Placed in the landscape as a sign of a commitment made and a hope waiting to be met, they turn the natural features of the land into vessels for human stories of anticipation and expectation.
In the series Ex-Voto, British artist Alys Tomlinson explores three different Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe: Lourdes (France), Ballyvourney (Ireland) and Grabarka (Poland). The project images include formal portraiture of pilgrims, wider landscapes of the sites and surrounding areas and detailed still-life shots of the objects and markers left behind. Shot on 5×4, large format film, the images carry a suggestive stillness and reflect the mysterious, timeless quality characteristic of these sites of spiritual contemplation.
To view more of Alys Tomlinson’s work please visit her website.