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Sos Corriolos', Neoneli, Sardinia © Alys Tomlinson (Courtesy Of Hackelbury Fine Art, London)

Alys Tomlinson explores ageless rituals of Italian islands

The British photographer spent two years documenting historic folk traditions

‘Sos Corriolos, Neoneli, Sardinia’ 

Walk through the latest exhibition of work by fine art photographer Alys Tomlinson and you might just feel you are in a mythical world. 

Gli Isolani (The Islanders) takes you on a journey into the traditions and rituals rooted in paganism and folklore that are still practised in Sicily, Sardinia and islands of the Venetian lagoon.  

Tomlinson spent two years in Italy researching and photographing the series which will be exhibited by HackelBury Fine Art, London, and published as a book by GOST. They tap into her fascination with human societies and culture – she recently completed an MA in Anthropology at SOAS, University of London.  

The images from the series Gli Isolani seem timeless, that feeling no doubt reinforced by Tomlinson’s use of analogue film and a large format plate camera. Mystical figures cloaked in animal skins or wearing masks, delicately embroidered costumes, antlers tilted ready for combat – all are captured against rugged landscapes or historic stone walls.

Tomlinson is best recognised for her work Ex Voto (2016-2018), for which she documented European pilgrimage sites, as well as the objects and markers left behind. The next stage in her ongoing project is Mother Vera, a feature length documentary film focusing on one of the pilgrims she met in Grabarka, Poland.  

Tomlinson was awarded the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2020 and named Photographer of the Year in the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.

Il Diavolo, Prizzi, Sicily © Alys Tomlinson (Courtesy Of Hackelbury Fine Art, London)

‘Il Diavolo, Prizzi, Sicily’ 

Is Sonaggiaos, Ortueri, Sardinia © Alys Tomlinson (Courtesy Of Hackelbury Fine Art, London)

‘Is Sonaggiaos, Ortueri, Sardinia’ 

Issohadore, Mamolada, Sardinia © Alys Tomlinson (Courtesy Of Hackelbury Fine Art, London)

‘Issohadore, Mamoiada, Sardinia’ 

La Donna 'Faldetta Cupaltata' Tempio Pausania, Sardinia © Alys Tomlinson (Courtesy Of Hackelbury Fine Art, London)

‘La Donna “Faldetta Cupaltata” Tempio Pausania, Sardinia’

Su Sonaggiau, Ortueri, Sardinia © Alys Tomlinson (Courtesy Of Hackelbury Fine Art, London)

‘Su Sonaggiau, Ortueri, Sardinia’ 


All images by Alys Tomlinson/HackelBury Fine Art, London 

The exhibition Gli Isolani (The Islanders) is at HackelBury Fine Art, London, 7 September-29 October 2022. A book of the same name is published by GOST, £40, November 2022