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Guest Speaker: Alys Tomlinson
By Jean M Jameson
Posted on 6/2/2020 10:00 PM
Nearly 40 members of CoL&CPS clustered together on our computer screens to welcome Alys Tomlinson as our first guest speaker in this new virtual environment. Good use of the break out rooms function gave a symbolic interval to the evening and a chance for discussions in small groups before reconvening for the second half of Alys's talk, with questions posed on the chat page. We are very grateful to Alys for embracing the technology and presenting to us so vividly, sharing the passion and attention to detail which has made her photographic projects so successful and engaging.

Alys is a British photographer, travelling widely, and has managed to juggle her commercial commissions with her personal work, to become a highly regarded and successful professional photographer.

After a broad sweep through her early years, Alys concentrated on her projects exploring people and places of pilgrimage. Although this fascination did not come from any organised religious background, Alys realises that it must resonate on some deep spiritual level and her respect for those she has met during this exploration is made obvious in her images. In addition to sharing with us the development of her project in visual terms, it was also fascinating to hear of the practical decisions about which camera and process and why, and how decisions are made by curators of exhibitions, in terms of size and presentation.

In 2018, Alys won the Sony World Photography Award for her book, Ex-Voto, made on a large format camera, in black and white, in a deliberate change of approach and pace, influenced by the anthropological understanding gained during an MA.

Her interest in pilgrimage led to many visits to Lourdes, Ireland, Poland and Belarus, and what became clear is that in each place, Alys made deep relationships with people she met along the way and it was her commitment and empathy which drew her subjects to trust her and become involved.

In 2019, Alys was invited to exhibit her work in Recontres des Arles, and her large portraits of Vera, a nun from Belarus from an unorthodox, Orthodox Christian community, were mesmerising. I do recommend a browse through Alys' website www.alystomlinson.co.uk, particularly if you were not with us in our zoom meeting. It is great that we are still able to benefit from the generosity and experience of speakers such as Alys, to inform and inspire our own photography, even at a time when we are mostly confined to house beetles and back garden flowers.

Congratulations to Ellen Whittle, the winner of May's Flickr 'Pick of the Week' competition, on the theme of finding beauty in the ordinary. Our Chair virtually presented Ellen with a replica Tiger Trophy for her image of flowers on a windowsill. With no pub to go to, comments and discussions following our meeting will be doubly welcome on the forum and on this blog.

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