Alys Tomlinson


A handwritten note carefully folded and tucked out of sight in the crevice of a rock, crosses scratched onto stone, and piles of twigs carefully wrapped in ribbon. Each of these is an offering of religious devotion, known as an ‘ex-voto’ and left anonymously at sacred Christian 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. Taken at the pilgrimage sites of Lourdes (France), Ballyvourney (Ireland) and Grabarka (Poland), the project images include formal portraiture of pilgrims, large format landscapes of the sites and surrounding areas and detailed still-life shots of the ex-voto objects and markers left behind. The images carry a suggestive stillness and reflect the mysterious, timeless quality characteristic of these sites of great spiritual contemplation.

About the Artist

Artist Website

Alys Tomlinson studied English Literature and Communications at the University of Leeds and photography at Central Saint Martins. She recently completed an MA (Distinction) in Anthropology of Travel, Tourism, and Pilgrimage at SOAS, University of London. Alys is most interested in the relationship between people and place, working on long-term projects that explore themes of environment, identity and belonging.

Alys was named Sony World Photographer of the Year 2018 for her series ‘Ex-Voto’, a fiveyear project documenting Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe. ‘Ex-Voto’ was published by GOST Books in 2019. Alys’s work has been included in over twenty international exhibitions, most recently at Somerset House, Rencontres d’Arles and National Portrait Gallery, London. In summer 2019, Alys was awarded the Prix du Public for her solo exhibition ‘The Faithful’ shown as part of the Discovery Award at the Rencontres d’Arles festival. She has recently been named as a nominee in the Prix Elysée and has been awarded a Sundance Institute, Documentary Fund Grant for a feature length documentary film she is making called ‘Mother Vera’. Alys has just been announced as a shortlisted artist for the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2020.

You can hear Alys discuss her work and practice on a number of photography podcasts, including ‘A Small Voice’.