As British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award 2019 opens for entries, we revisit one of last year’s shortlisted photographers, Alys Tomlinson
“Placed anonymously and often hidden from view, ‘Ex-Votos’ are offerings left by pilgrims as signs of gratitude and devotion,” explains Alys Tomlinson of the subjects of Ex-Voto, a series exploring offerings of religious devotion found at Christian pilgrimage sites. These small donations of gratitude take the form of handwritten notes neatly folded and hidden in the crevice of rocks, crosses etched into stone, or lengths of ribbon tied around piles of twigs, creating a tangible narrative between faith, person and the landscape.
Ex-Voto explores this narrative through formal portraiture, large format landscape photography, and small, detailed still lives of the objects and markers left behind. Last year, the series was shortlisted for the BJP International Photography Award, and it has garnered global attention ever since. “To have my interests recognized as resonating beyond my own curious impulses is both exciting and encouraging,” says Alys of being shortlisted for last year’s BJP IPA, “While to receive recognition from judges with such distinctive reputations is a huge boost for my confidence, and gives me the motivation to carry on!”
Since being shortlisted for the BJP IPA, Ex-Voto has also been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize and the Renaissance Photography Prize, and has most recently won first prize in the Discovery category of the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards. The series is now being made into a book published by GOST Books, which will be released in Spring 2019.
The book will feature over 40 black and white images, many of which have not been seen before. “I wanted to capture the power of these deeply spiritual locations, but also the mystery and silence of religious sites that seem unchanged by time,” Alys explains of the work. 750 copies of the book will be published, and have been designed by renowned book designer Stu Smith. There will also be essays written by The Guardian writer Sean O’Hagan and Professor John Eade of the University of Roehampton, encompassing the overarching themes of the series.
Tomlinson’s key interest as a photographer is the relationship between people and place, and her work explores themes of environment, belonging and identity. Living in London, she combines commissioned work for editorial, design and advertising clients with her own personal work, which she publishes and exhibits. For her, alongside many other photographers, the exposure of the BJP IPA has opened up an array of new opportunities.
The BJP IPA has long established itself as an entry-point into the photography industry. Running for over a decade, it has been instrumental in launching the careers of some of the world’s most respected contemporary photographers, offering the winning photographer the chance of a life-changing solo show at TJ Boulting, one of London UK’s leading galleries. This next installment of the BJP IPA promises to be as lucrative for successful applicants as those preceding it. Entries are open now.
Calls to BJP IPA 2019 are now closed
Words by Sarah Roberts