Alys Tomlinson’s Ex-Voto book is the culmination of a five-year journey across Catholic pilgrimage sites in Ballyvourney in Ireland, Grabarka in Poland, and Lourdes in France. “Placed anonymously and often hidden from view, ‘Ex-Votos’ are offerings left by pilgrims as signs of gratitude and devotion,” she explains. Since being shortlisted for the BJP IPA in 2018, the series has been recognised across the industry, also making the shortlists for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize and the Renaissance Photography Prize. Most recently, Ex-Voto won first prize in the Discovery section of the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards. The eagerly anticipated release of the Ex-Voto book coincides with several exhibitions of the work; at HackelBury Fine Art in London from 7 March to 18 April, at Chichester Cathedral from 2 March to 23 April, and at SIDE Gallery in Newcastle from 6 April until 9 June 2019. Included in Ex-Voto are essays by experts Dr Rowan Cerys Tomlinson, Professor John Eade, and Sean O’Hagan, each detailing some of the history of the sites photographed and the ex-votos …
JA (or Jim) Mortram was born in 1971, and studied art in Norwich. In his third year of college he dropped out to become the primary carer for his mother, who has chronic epilepsy, in a small market town in Norfolk called Dereham. In 2006 he started shooting people in and around Dereham, focusing on those facing disadvantages and social exclusion; he went to create a blog called Small Town Inertia, featuring his images and their words. The blog was critically acclaimed early on, and in 2013 Mortram was one of BJP’s Ones to Watch. Mortram has made publications of three of his stories with Cafe Royal Books, and recently published the book Small Town Inertia with Bluecoat Press. The exhibition Small Town Inertia is on show at Side Gallery, Newcastle from 12 January – 24 March
“She believed that photography was an important form of visual communication that could stimulate discussions about real-life situations and captured accurate records of the world we live in,” Ella Murtha told BJP last year. “She was trying to force people to look at the truth and learn from it.” Born in South Shields in 1956, Tish Murtha left school aged just 16 and supported herself by selling hotdogs and working in a petrol station. She found her way into photography anyway, studying at the influential School of Documentary Photography at Newport College of Art, then returning to the North East to record the social deprivation she herself had suffered, as well as photographing in London.
In 1969 the Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen ditched her filmmaking course, moving to Newcastle with a group of idealistic young ex-students to found the Amber collective, and embarking on a series of long-term projects, including her seminal work on Byker, which was inscribed in the Unesco UK Memory of the World Register. Nearly 50 years on, she continues to live and work in the north-east as a member of Amber
“Everyone talks about 1968 as the year of revolution, but America was burning in 1967,” says Mark Sealy. “There were many riots and disturbances that year, but Parks was looking at intimacy, not running across the country shooting riots. He was telling history through these very personal stories.” He’s talking about Gordon Parks, the feted documentary photographer and film-maker (best known for directing Shaft). In particular Sealy is talking about Parks’ work with the Fontenelles, a family living in poverty in Harlem in 1967 that Parks photographed for a 16-page story published in Life in March ’68.
“The working class get it in the neck basically, they’re the bottom of the pile,” says Chris Killip. “I wanted to record people’s lives because I valued them. I wanted them to be remembered. If you take a photograph of someone they are immortalised, they’re there forever. For me that was important, that you’re acknowledging people’s lives, and also contextualising people’s lives,” says key British documentary photographer, Chris Killip
As debut projects go, Murray Ballard could scarcely have chosen a more intriguing subject than cryonics. The practice of preserving dead bodies at very low temperatures, in the hope of bringing them back to life far in the future, is commonly thought to exist only in science fiction, where it is generally known by its technically inaccurate name of “cryogenic freezing”. Yet as Ballard (no relation to his namesake, the sci-fi author JG) discovered during his five- year investigation, hundreds of people around the world have already invested in what he has calls “The Prospect of Immortality”. The 27-year-old began documenting cryonicists while studying photography at the University of Brighton, after he discovered there was a group of British believers based just along the Sussex coast in Peacehaven. He was soon making much longer excursions, his work taking him to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona three times, the rival Cryonics Institute in Michigan twice, and the burgeoning Kriorus facility just outside Moscow on a further two occasions. Having worked as an assistant to Magnum photographer …