Photofusion Member | Alys Tomlinson

Every year around six million pilgrims flock to Lourdes in the foothills of the Pyrenees. There they visit the grotto, bathe in holy water at the baths, attend mass and gather each evening for the candlelight procession. Stemming from a young peasant girl’s apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1858, Lourdes has become a major destination of Catholic tourism and pilgrimage. It’s easy have a cynical view of Lourdes with its crass commercialisation, endless rosaries and glow?in­?the dark Virgin Mary’s, but beyond this lies an incredibly strong faith and a beautiful landscape where people come to retreat and find peace. Each person has their own story to tell and an individual reason for being there. Some come hoping to be cured by the ‘miraculous’ healing properties of the water, others are there to fulfil a lifelong ambition or duty to God. 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 dark and the spirituality that permeates the Sanctuary of ‘Our Lady of Lourdes.’

© Alys Tomlinson

This is an on-going project and ties in with an MA I am currently studying for part-­time, which is an MA in Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage at SOAS, University of London.

Alys studied at the University of Leeds and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She is based in London and combines commissioned work for editorial, design and advertising clients with personal work, which she publishes and exhibits. Awards and exhibitions include the Magenta/Flash Forward Award, Foto8 Summer Show, Creative Review Photography Annual and Hereford Photography Festival’s Open Here. She was recently named as one of the PDN (Photo District News) 30 Photographers To Watch.

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