“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 …
“South Africa is a deeply religious country,” says Giya Makondo-Wills, whose work-in-progress, They Came From the Water While the World Watched, maps out the interplay between Christianity and ancestral religion in the region. With four trips to the country under her belt so far, the 23-year old has travelled as much into the past as in the present, tracing the indelible repercussions of 19th-century European migration as they resonate through South African culture today.
Makondo-Wills, who is British-South African, became interested in her African grandmother’s faith while shooting another project. “She’s very Orthodox Christian but she also still practises ancestral religion, and that’s a core part of who she is. She prays to a God and the gods,” the photographer explains.
This duality got her thinking about the intersections of belief systems and how they were brought into contact. How did Christianity become so influential? How does it co-exist with indigenous religions? Building on her interests in race and identity, these questions soon elicited many others, spawning a long-term project that has carried her from a BA to an MA at the University of South Wales.
The November issue of BJP takes you on a round the world trip with Journeys. From the markets of Lagos to the search for Jesus across the world, these are more than just trips; these journeys will alter your way of looking at the world.
“People might not have a lot, but they will give you what they can. That’s true of so many Irish people. They’re a very warm and friendly and welcoming people. They will tell you stories and their lives and give you their time.” Josh Adam Jones, a student at the University of West England, Bristol, developed his project 99 Peace Walls whilst volunteering at Belfast’s photo festival this summer. The youth of the city helped him to understand the divides that are still ingrained into the culture there, and how, in spite of this, there is a warm community to be found throughout the city.
“I have to be scared, because the moment I’m not scared it might be dangerous.” Miki Kratsman has found himself in a number of difficult and dangerous situations over the course of his 33 year career photographing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In that time, he has repeatedly changed his approach to create different narratives, showing not only the danger in the region, but those brave enough to stand up to the attacks, the pernicious nature of surveillance and latterly creating a Facebook community to share news of what has happened to the subjects of his photographs.
“Most people I meet are not satiated or fulfilled and desire more. Desire to be heard. Desire to be seen. Desire to connect and matter,” says Phyllis B. Dooney, the American photographer behind the photoseries Gravity is Stronger Here. The project, which started as an exploration of the American South, centres on a Greenville family trying to negotiate life in middle America. Their needs and wants are the same as those across the country: to be heard, to be seen, to be accepted.
The work of Mario Cravo Neto has long been under-appreciated on British shores. Despite long being a celebrated figure of contemporary Brazilian photography at home and abroad – having exhibited extensively in South America and the United States as well as at the Recontre d’Arles – the photographer, who died in 2009, hasn’t been exposed to British audiences to the same extent. The first UK solo exhibition of his work has recently gone on show at London’s Autograph ABP, under the auspices of the gallery director Mark Sealy and guest curator Gabriela Salgado. I visited the gallery as the show was being installed as Salgado explained what makes Mario Cravo Neto such an essential figure in Brazilian art. “MY IDEA FROM NOW ON IS TO DEVELOP THAT TRANSITION BETWEEN THE INERT OBJECT AND THE SACRED OBJECT. IT IS SIMPLY A RELIGIOUS POSITION IN PHOTOGRAPHY THAT I WISH TO ADOPT.” – MARIO CRAVO NETO Cultural tastes may have had a part to play in his long absence from these shores, with Cravo Neto’s idiosyncratic studio portraits …