Costumes of isolated identities

Local rituals in Italian islands

Words by

Artdoc

© Alys Tomlinson | Sos Merdules, Ottana, Sardinia

In these modern 'always-online' times, we can hardly imagine how vital local rituals were in pre-industrial and even pre-Christian times. People worldwide who depended on the land have developed a range of rituals to appease the spirits of nature. In developed European countries, most of these rituals and the accompanying costumes and masks have perished or have long been forgotten. On the Italian islands, Sicily and Sardinia, British photographer Alys Tomlinson found a treasure of local outfits. She photographed the proud villagers who dressed up for the rituals and festivities and found a gem of mysterious beauty, almost forgotten meanings and eerie apparitions.


© Alys Tomlinson |  Maschere a Gattu, Sarule, Sardinia

The idea to make the project Gli Isolani evolved from an assignment given to Alys Tomlinson by a publisher to do in Venice. The assignment was to photograph travel guides. "I had to go to an island in the Venetian lagoon called San Michele, a very atmospheric cemetery island. And I remember there were all these Venetians laying flowers at the graves of their loved ones. And it was an image that really stayed with me. And I thought, well, that would one day perhaps make a very interesting project. So, I started looking at the religious celebrations and festivities in Venice. I have an interest in faith and spirituality. I began researching these festivals in Venice, which led me to Sicily and Sardinia, the untamed, less rigid places than the north of Italy."

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© Alys Tomlinson | Il Diavolo, Prizzi, Sicily

Costumes and landscapes

Most of the costumes and masks people wear have connections with faith and religion. Some are related to particular saint days or to seasonal changes in the calendar. "Through my research, I found that many of these striking costumes are worn during Holy Week, the period over Easter. I wanted to go during Easter when the actual events were taking place. But because of the pandemic, they all got cancelled. Still, I managed to get there in between lockdowns. With a film producer living in Palermo, I created an itinerary whereby we would contact the group at various villages in Sicily and Sardinia, and they would dress up, especially for us."

They would dress up, especially for us.

So instead of following the festivities, Tomlinson directed the local people to pose for her in different locations, where she took care to incorporate the landscape into the portraits. "They were excited about this because these costumes are often very precious. They're treated as kind of sacred objects, and they're locked away. It was an opportunity for them to wear these costumes they hadn't worn for over two years because of covid. So, they were very open to the idea of spending the whole day with us and us choosing where to photograph them. Although they're portraits, I want to give the spectator a sense of the landscape and the connection between them and the landscape."

© Alys Tomlinson | La Donna ‘Faldetta Cupaltata’, Tempio Pausania, Sardinia


Pagan rituals

Many of the costumes Tomlinson photographed are connected to agricultural periods like the harvest. They refer to the pre-Christian relation and even worship people had with the land. Other costumes are related more to folklore and fairy tales. "No one knows the exact origin of the costumes. In villages, people will have a big debate. The guy behind the bar will say, this has to do with a pagan ritual that happened many centuries ago. And someone else will say that it has to do with a certain fable that an old grandma told in a village. These kinds of contested narratives show there is not always a clear idea of the origin."

It is the responsibility of the young generation to keep their traditions going.

Alys Tomlinson experienced warm hospitality wherever she went. The communities were proud of their costumes and masks and were excited to be photographed, probably also out of concern that these may not be around forever. "It is the responsibility of the young generation to keep their traditions going, because they've been passed down through generations. But many of them are leaving for the mainland or the big cities. So, many of the people I photographed are young men in their 20s who are shepherds or farmers or work in local factories or on the land. They are concerned that they won't have the work to keep them there anymore. So, these traditions may end up dying out."

© Alys Tomlinson | Su Sonaggiau, Ortueri, Sardinia


Theatre

In one photo, we see a man with a black face, sheepskin and cowbells around his body. In another photo, people wear terrifying masks. And there is a photo Su Beccu e Su Aparazu where you see a drama play unfolding. In another image, a woman appears to play Virgin Mary. All characters seem to play in a magical and mysterious theatre. "They are taking on characters, becoming creatures, or embodying animals. In one sense, there are the more traditional costumes, particularly that the women wear, which are very elegant and ornate. And you have the wilder side of the outfits where they're almost quite sinister and ominous. Some poses appeared to be parts of the festivities. Some people I photographed would run through the streets banging drums or pretending to tease the crowds the festivals, and so they become quite theatrical."

© Alys Tomlinson | Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily

When I photographed her, it took about 3 hours to get ready before she was dressed.

The photo Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily, shows a young girl in an elaborate dress and wearing rich jewellery. "She is from an Italian Albanian community in Sicily where they still speak Albanian in the village. And these are very precious. This is one of the costumes with a big ornate silver buckle on the belt and very expensive gems and jewellery. When I photographed her, it took about 3 hours to get ready before she was dressed. But it used to belong to her mother and her grandmother, so they are passed down through the family, and it was her mother and grandmother who helped her dress because there's a particular way of putting on the dress and wearing the layers."

© Alys Tomlinson | Issohadore, Mamoiada, Sardinia


Slowing down

All photos for the book Gi Isolani (The Islanders) were taken with an analogue 4x5 inch camera on sheet film in black and white, giving the portraits a calm, meditative and timeless atmosphere. "It is a very slow way of working. It's very precise. I only use between two and four plates per portrait. It's quite meditative for me, and you work in a particular rhythm. I only use natural light. I don't like to direct too much. I gave only a small amount of direction. Because it's a slow way of working, you build a different relationship with a person. You have to explain meticulously what you want. I'm always trying to capture the essence of the person. To capture the meditative mood of a person requires a certain amount of time. We have both to be very patient, and we have to work together. So, there is an element of everything slowing down. When you work with that 4x5 inch camera, there has to be a close collaboration with the models. They have to understand how I work, and I have to try and communicate the way I work in order for them to be still and quiet. I think most people I met really enjoyed being photographed by that camera because it's very unusual now, and obviously, because these images have an otherworldly and timeless quality."

© Alys Tomlinson | I Giudei, San Fratello, Sicily


Visual anthropology

The book Gi Isolani not only has photographic qualities but can also be seen as a form of visual anthropology, a part of the social science that uses images to describe a people and its culture. It is no coincidence that Alys Tomlinson studied anthropology, which she started while working on her project Ex Voto in 2019, about the pilgrimage site Lourdes in France. "As an atheist with no background of faith or religion, I felt a need to educate myself, and to really do what I could to understand this phenomenon of pilgrimage and why it was so important for people. Understanding communities and understanding human behaviour and how it's expressed, whether through body language or costume or dress or the anthropological studies I undertook, all added to that. The study made me more thoughtful about how I approach communities and cultures that are not necessarily familiar to me."

Respect and trust are key to me.

Anthropological photography has been dominated by the colonial way of looking at people. Tomlinson thinks there needs to be a new approach. "What's very important to me is that I retain a high level of respect for whoever I photograph. So, respect and trust are key to me, even if I disagree with someone's religious beliefs. I very much respected the posing people as individuals and as people, and I was interested in why they felt this way, why their faith was so important to them."

© Alys Tomlinson | Is Sonaggiaos, Ortueri, Sardinia


Multiple identities

In Europe, we have a dominant Christian identity, which obscures the many layers of other so-called pagan habits that have also lived in Europe. Could these photographs help to rediscover or reveal an old identity which Christians have tried to evade in Europe? "I think the old traditional agricultural culture has been suppressed in some ways. And I think we all struggle with who we are and where we come from generally, and what is our true identity. I see a lot of these images as questioning, like, who we are and questioning what our identity is. What was interesting to me is that many Sicilians and Sardinians don't consider themselves Italian. They have their own politics, their own culture, their own food, and their own language. That's this continual questioning of who we are and what makes us who we are. How are these identities created? I think through these costumes and masks, those people express that we have multiple and layered identities. There's nothing clear or simple about identity as a concept."

Alys Tomlinson grew up in Brighton and went on to study English Literature and Communications at the University of Leeds. After graduating, she moved to New York for a year and was given her first commission for Time Out, before coming back to London to study photography at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She recently completed a part-time MA in Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage (Distinction) at SOAS, University of London, which tied in with her long-term, personal project about pilgrimage.
Her book Ex-Voto was published by GOST Books in 2019 and Lost Summer was self-published in 2020. Alys combines commissioned work for editorial, design and advertising clients with personal work, which she publishes and exhibits. Alys is currently working on a feature-length documentary film called Mother Vera, which she is co-directing with Cécile Embleton. Her latest project Gli Isolani (The Islanders) will be published by GOST Books in autumn 2022.

Book
Gli Isolani
Alys Tomlinson
Gost Books, £40.00

Exhibition
Alys Tomlinson: Gli Isolani (The Islanders)
September 7 - October 29, 2022
HackelBury Fine Art, 4 Launceston Place, London W8 5RL
more information

Costumes of isolated identities

Local rituals in Italian islands

Words by

Artdoc

© Alys Tomlinson | Sos Merdules, Ottana, Sardinia

In these modern 'always-online' times, we can hardly imagine how vital local rituals were in pre-industrial and even pre-Christian times. People worldwide who depended on the land have developed a range of rituals to appease the spirits of nature. In developed European countries, most of these rituals and the accompanying costumes and masks have perished or have long been forgotten. On the Italian islands, Sicily and Sardinia, British photographer Alys Tomlinson found a treasure of local outfits. She photographed the proud villagers who dressed up for the rituals and festivities and found a gem of mysterious beauty, almost forgotten meanings and eerie apparitions.


© Alys Tomlinson |  Maschere a Gattu, Sarule, Sardinia

The idea to make the project Gli Isolani evolved from an assignment given to Alys Tomlinson by a publisher to do in Venice. The assignment was to photograph travel guides. "I had to go to an island in the Venetian lagoon called San Michele, a very atmospheric cemetery island. And I remember there were all these Venetians laying flowers at the graves of their loved ones. And it was an image that really stayed with me. And I thought, well, that would one day perhaps make a very interesting project. So, I started looking at the religious celebrations and festivities in Venice. I have an interest in faith and spirituality. I began researching these festivals in Venice, which led me to Sicily and Sardinia, the untamed, less rigid places than the north of Italy."

© Alys Tomlinson | Il Diavolo, Prizzi, Sicily

Costumes and landscapes

Most of the costumes and masks people wear have connections with faith and religion. Some are related to particular saint days or to seasonal changes in the calendar. "Through my research, I found that many of these striking costumes are worn during Holy Week, the period over Easter. I wanted to go during Easter when the actual events were taking place. But because of the pandemic, they all got cancelled. Still, I managed to get there in between lockdowns. With a film producer living in Palermo, I created an itinerary whereby we would contact the group at various villages in Sicily and Sardinia, and they would dress up, especially for us."

They would dress up, especially for us.

So instead of following the festivities, Tomlinson directed the local people to pose for her in different locations, where she took care to incorporate the landscape into the portraits. "They were excited about this because these costumes are often very precious. They're treated as kind of sacred objects, and they're locked away. It was an opportunity for them to wear these costumes they hadn't worn for over two years because of covid. So, they were very open to the idea of spending the whole day with us and us choosing where to photograph them. Although they're portraits, I want to give the spectator a sense of the landscape and the connection between them and the landscape."

© Alys Tomlinson | La Donna ‘Faldetta Cupaltata’, Tempio Pausania, Sardinia


Pagan rituals

Many of the costumes Tomlinson photographed are connected to agricultural periods like the harvest. They refer to the pre-Christian relation and even worship people had with the land. Other costumes are related more to folklore and fairy tales. "No one knows the exact origin of the costumes. In villages, people will have a big debate. The guy behind the bar will say, this has to do with a pagan ritual that happened many centuries ago. And someone else will say that it has to do with a certain fable that an old grandma told in a village. These kinds of contested narratives show there is not always a clear idea of the origin."

It is the responsibility of the young generation to keep their traditions going.

Alys Tomlinson experienced warm hospitality wherever she went. The communities were proud of their costumes and masks and were excited to be photographed, probably also out of concern that these may not be around forever. "It is the responsibility of the young generation to keep their traditions going, because they've been passed down through generations. But many of them are leaving for the mainland or the big cities. So, many of the people I photographed are young men in their 20s who are shepherds or farmers or work in local factories or on the land. They are concerned that they won't have the work to keep them there anymore. So, these traditions may end up dying out."

© Alys Tomlinson | Su Sonaggiau, Ortueri, Sardinia


Theatre

In one photo, we see a man with a black face, sheepskin and cowbells around his body. In another photo, people wear terrifying masks. And there is a photo Su Beccu e Su Aparazu where you see a drama play unfolding. In another image, a woman appears to play Virgin Mary. All characters seem to play in a magical and mysterious theatre. "They are taking on characters, becoming creatures, or embodying animals. In one sense, there are the more traditional costumes, particularly that the women wear, which are very elegant and ornate. And you have the wilder side of the outfits where they're almost quite sinister and ominous. Some poses appeared to be parts of the festivities. Some people I photographed would run through the streets banging drums or pretending to tease the crowds the festivals, and so they become quite theatrical."

© Alys Tomlinson | Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily

When I photographed her, it took about 3 hours to get ready before she was dressed.

The photo Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily, shows a young girl in an elaborate dress and wearing rich jewellery. "She is from an Italian Albanian community in Sicily where they still speak Albanian in the village. And these are very precious. This is one of the costumes with a big ornate silver buckle on the belt and very expensive gems and jewellery. When I photographed her, it took about 3 hours to get ready before she was dressed. But it used to belong to her mother and her grandmother, so they are passed down through the family, and it was her mother and grandmother who helped her dress because there's a particular way of putting on the dress and wearing the layers."

© Alys Tomlinson | Issohadore, Mamoiada, Sardinia


Slowing down

All photos for the book Gi Isolani (The Islanders) were taken with an analogue 4x5 inch camera on sheet film in black and white, giving the portraits a calm, meditative and timeless atmosphere. "It is a very slow way of working. It's very precise. I only use between two and four plates per portrait. It's quite meditative for me, and you work in a particular rhythm. I only use natural light. I don't like to direct too much. I gave only a small amount of direction. Because it's a slow way of working, you build a different relationship with a person. You have to explain meticulously what you want. I'm always trying to capture the essence of the person. To capture the meditative mood of a person requires a certain amount of time. We have both to be very patient, and we have to work together. So, there is an element of everything slowing down. When you work with that 4x5 inch camera, there has to be a close collaboration with the models. They have to understand how I work, and I have to try and communicate the way I work in order for them to be still and quiet. I think most people I met really enjoyed being photographed by that camera because it's very unusual now, and obviously, because these images have an otherworldly and timeless quality."

© Alys Tomlinson | I Giudei, San Fratello, Sicily


Visual anthropology

The book Gi Isolani not only has photographic qualities but can also be seen as a form of visual anthropology, a part of the social science that uses images to describe a people and its culture. It is no coincidence that Alys Tomlinson studied anthropology, which she started while working on her project Ex Voto in 2019, about the pilgrimage site Lourdes in France. "As an atheist with no background of faith or religion, I felt a need to educate myself, and to really do what I could to understand this phenomenon of pilgrimage and why it was so important for people. Understanding communities and understanding human behaviour and how it's expressed, whether through body language or costume or dress or the anthropological studies I undertook, all added to that. The study made me more thoughtful about how I approach communities and cultures that are not necessarily familiar to me."

Respect and trust are key to me.

Anthropological photography has been dominated by the colonial way of looking at people. Tomlinson thinks there needs to be a new approach. "What's very important to me is that I retain a high level of respect for whoever I photograph. So, respect and trust are key to me, even if I disagree with someone's religious beliefs. I very much respected the posing people as individuals and as people, and I was interested in why they felt this way, why their faith was so important to them."

© Alys Tomlinson | Is Sonaggiaos, Ortueri, Sardinia


Multiple identities

In Europe, we have a dominant Christian identity, which obscures the many layers of other so-called pagan habits that have also lived in Europe. Could these photographs help to rediscover or reveal an old identity which Christians have tried to evade in Europe? "I think the old traditional agricultural culture has been suppressed in some ways. And I think we all struggle with who we are and where we come from generally, and what is our true identity. I see a lot of these images as questioning, like, who we are and questioning what our identity is. What was interesting to me is that many Sicilians and Sardinians don't consider themselves Italian. They have their own politics, their own culture, their own food, and their own language. That's this continual questioning of who we are and what makes us who we are. How are these identities created? I think through these costumes and masks, those people express that we have multiple and layered identities. There's nothing clear or simple about identity as a concept."

Alys Tomlinson grew up in Brighton and went on to study English Literature and Communications at the University of Leeds. After graduating, she moved to New York for a year and was given her first commission for Time Out, before coming back to London to study photography at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She recently completed a part-time MA in Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage (Distinction) at SOAS, University of London, which tied in with her long-term, personal project about pilgrimage.
Her book Ex-Voto was published by GOST Books in 2019 and Lost Summer was self-published in 2020. Alys combines commissioned work for editorial, design and advertising clients with personal work, which she publishes and exhibits. Alys is currently working on a feature-length documentary film called Mother Vera, which she is co-directing with Cécile Embleton. Her latest project Gli Isolani (The Islanders) will be published by GOST Books in autumn 2022.

Book
Gli Isolani
Alys Tomlinson
Gost Books, £40.00

Exhibition
Alys Tomlinson: Gli Isolani (The Islanders)
September 7 - October 29, 2022
HackelBury Fine Art, 4 Launceston Place, London W8 5RL
more information

Back to Magazine

Costumes of isolated identities

Local rituals in Italian islands

Words by

Artdoc

© Alys Tomlinson | Sos Merdules, Ottana, Sardinia

In these modern 'always-online' times, we can hardly imagine how vital local rituals were in pre-industrial and even pre-Christian times. People worldwide who depended on the land have developed a range of rituals to appease the spirits of nature. In developed European countries, most of these rituals and the accompanying costumes and masks have perished or have long been forgotten. On the Italian islands, Sicily and Sardinia, British photographer Alys Tomlinson found a treasure of local outfits. She photographed the proud villagers who dressed up for the rituals and festivities and found a gem of mysterious beauty, almost forgotten meanings and eerie apparitions.


© Alys Tomlinson |  Maschere a Gattu, Sarule, Sardinia

The idea to make the project Gli Isolani evolved from an assignment given to Alys Tomlinson by a publisher to do in Venice. The assignment was to photograph travel guides. "I had to go to an island in the Venetian lagoon called San Michele, a very atmospheric cemetery island. And I remember there were all these Venetians laying flowers at the graves of their loved ones. And it was an image that really stayed with me. And I thought, well, that would one day perhaps make a very interesting project. So, I started looking at the religious celebrations and festivities in Venice. I have an interest in faith and spirituality. I began researching these festivals in Venice, which led me to Sicily and Sardinia, the untamed, less rigid places than the north of Italy."

© Alys Tomlinson | Il Diavolo, Prizzi, Sicily

Costumes and landscapes

Most of the costumes and masks people wear have connections with faith and religion. Some are related to particular saint days or to seasonal changes in the calendar. "Through my research, I found that many of these striking costumes are worn during Holy Week, the period over Easter. I wanted to go during Easter when the actual events were taking place. But because of the pandemic, they all got cancelled. Still, I managed to get there in between lockdowns. With a film producer living in Palermo, I created an itinerary whereby we would contact the group at various villages in Sicily and Sardinia, and they would dress up, especially for us."

They would dress up, especially for us.

So instead of following the festivities, Tomlinson directed the local people to pose for her in different locations, where she took care to incorporate the landscape into the portraits. "They were excited about this because these costumes are often very precious. They're treated as kind of sacred objects, and they're locked away. It was an opportunity for them to wear these costumes they hadn't worn for over two years because of covid. So, they were very open to the idea of spending the whole day with us and us choosing where to photograph them. Although they're portraits, I want to give the spectator a sense of the landscape and the connection between them and the landscape."

© Alys Tomlinson | La Donna ‘Faldetta Cupaltata’, Tempio Pausania, Sardinia


Pagan rituals

Many of the costumes Tomlinson photographed are connected to agricultural periods like the harvest. They refer to the pre-Christian relation and even worship people had with the land. Other costumes are related more to folklore and fairy tales. "No one knows the exact origin of the costumes. In villages, people will have a big debate. The guy behind the bar will say, this has to do with a pagan ritual that happened many centuries ago. And someone else will say that it has to do with a certain fable that an old grandma told in a village. These kinds of contested narratives show there is not always a clear idea of the origin."

It is the responsibility of the young generation to keep their traditions going.

Alys Tomlinson experienced warm hospitality wherever she went. The communities were proud of their costumes and masks and were excited to be photographed, probably also out of concern that these may not be around forever. "It is the responsibility of the young generation to keep their traditions going, because they've been passed down through generations. But many of them are leaving for the mainland or the big cities. So, many of the people I photographed are young men in their 20s who are shepherds or farmers or work in local factories or on the land. They are concerned that they won't have the work to keep them there anymore. So, these traditions may end up dying out."

© Alys Tomlinson | Su Sonaggiau, Ortueri, Sardinia


Theatre

In one photo, we see a man with a black face, sheepskin and cowbells around his body. In another photo, people wear terrifying masks. And there is a photo Su Beccu e Su Aparazu where you see a drama play unfolding. In another image, a woman appears to play Virgin Mary. All characters seem to play in a magical and mysterious theatre. "They are taking on characters, becoming creatures, or embodying animals. In one sense, there are the more traditional costumes, particularly that the women wear, which are very elegant and ornate. And you have the wilder side of the outfits where they're almost quite sinister and ominous. Some poses appeared to be parts of the festivities. Some people I photographed would run through the streets banging drums or pretending to tease the crowds the festivals, and so they become quite theatrical."

© Alys Tomlinson | Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily

When I photographed her, it took about 3 hours to get ready before she was dressed.

The photo Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily, shows a young girl in an elaborate dress and wearing rich jewellery. "She is from an Italian Albanian community in Sicily where they still speak Albanian in the village. And these are very precious. This is one of the costumes with a big ornate silver buckle on the belt and very expensive gems and jewellery. When I photographed her, it took about 3 hours to get ready before she was dressed. But it used to belong to her mother and her grandmother, so they are passed down through the family, and it was her mother and grandmother who helped her dress because there's a particular way of putting on the dress and wearing the layers."

© Alys Tomlinson | Issohadore, Mamoiada, Sardinia


Slowing down

All photos for the book Gi Isolani (The Islanders) were taken with an analogue 4x5 inch camera on sheet film in black and white, giving the portraits a calm, meditative and timeless atmosphere. "It is a very slow way of working. It's very precise. I only use between two and four plates per portrait. It's quite meditative for me, and you work in a particular rhythm. I only use natural light. I don't like to direct too much. I gave only a small amount of direction. Because it's a slow way of working, you build a different relationship with a person. You have to explain meticulously what you want. I'm always trying to capture the essence of the person. To capture the meditative mood of a person requires a certain amount of time. We have both to be very patient, and we have to work together. So, there is an element of everything slowing down. When you work with that 4x5 inch camera, there has to be a close collaboration with the models. They have to understand how I work, and I have to try and communicate the way I work in order for them to be still and quiet. I think most people I met really enjoyed being photographed by that camera because it's very unusual now, and obviously, because these images have an otherworldly and timeless quality."

© Alys Tomlinson | I Giudei, San Fratello, Sicily


Visual anthropology

The book Gi Isolani not only has photographic qualities but can also be seen as a form of visual anthropology, a part of the social science that uses images to describe a people and its culture. It is no coincidence that Alys Tomlinson studied anthropology, which she started while working on her project Ex Voto in 2019, about the pilgrimage site Lourdes in France. "As an atheist with no background of faith or religion, I felt a need to educate myself, and to really do what I could to understand this phenomenon of pilgrimage and why it was so important for people. Understanding communities and understanding human behaviour and how it's expressed, whether through body language or costume or dress or the anthropological studies I undertook, all added to that. The study made me more thoughtful about how I approach communities and cultures that are not necessarily familiar to me."

Respect and trust are key to me.

Anthropological photography has been dominated by the colonial way of looking at people. Tomlinson thinks there needs to be a new approach. "What's very important to me is that I retain a high level of respect for whoever I photograph. So, respect and trust are key to me, even if I disagree with someone's religious beliefs. I very much respected the posing people as individuals and as people, and I was interested in why they felt this way, why their faith was so important to them."

© Alys Tomlinson | Is Sonaggiaos, Ortueri, Sardinia


Multiple identities

In Europe, we have a dominant Christian identity, which obscures the many layers of other so-called pagan habits that have also lived in Europe. Could these photographs help to rediscover or reveal an old identity which Christians have tried to evade in Europe? "I think the old traditional agricultural culture has been suppressed in some ways. And I think we all struggle with who we are and where we come from generally, and what is our true identity. I see a lot of these images as questioning, like, who we are and questioning what our identity is. What was interesting to me is that many Sicilians and Sardinians don't consider themselves Italian. They have their own politics, their own culture, their own food, and their own language. That's this continual questioning of who we are and what makes us who we are. How are these identities created? I think through these costumes and masks, those people express that we have multiple and layered identities. There's nothing clear or simple about identity as a concept."

Alys Tomlinson grew up in Brighton and went on to study English Literature and Communications at the University of Leeds. After graduating, she moved to New York for a year and was given her first commission for Time Out, before coming back to London to study photography at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She recently completed a part-time MA in Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage (Distinction) at SOAS, University of London, which tied in with her long-term, personal project about pilgrimage.
Her book Ex-Voto was published by GOST Books in 2019 and Lost Summer was self-published in 2020. Alys combines commissioned work for editorial, design and advertising clients with personal work, which she publishes and exhibits. Alys is currently working on a feature-length documentary film called Mother Vera, which she is co-directing with Cécile Embleton. Her latest project Gli Isolani (The Islanders) will be published by GOST Books in autumn 2022.

Book
Gli Isolani
Alys Tomlinson
Gost Books, £40.00

Exhibition
Alys Tomlinson: Gli Isolani (The Islanders)
September 7 - October 29, 2022
HackelBury Fine Art, 4 Launceston Place, London W8 5RL
more information

Back to Magazine
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