In 1858 in small village in the foothills of the Pyrenees, a young peasant girl named Bernadette witnessed a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Now around six million pilgrims flock to Lourdes every year. Schedules are tightly followed and include visits to the grotto, bathing in holy water at the baths, attending mass and gathering each evening at dusk for the candlelight procession. Every visitor has an individual story and Lourdes attracts people from all backgrounds and generations. Most leave with some sense of spiritual healing, while the sick often feel a renewed strength in facing their illness. This project aims to tell the stories of those who go to Lourdes and to create a narrative between the people and the landscape, the light and the dark and the spirituality and sense of hope that permeates the Sanctuary of ‘Our Lady of Lourdes.’
‘Ex-Voto’Naomh Ghobnatan is an extension of her previous work in Lourdes. Still intrigued by this place of great spiritual contemplation and worship, she re-visited the project with a different approach. Shooting in large format black and white slowed the process down and gave her space to think. Using anthropological experience gained during her MA, she became interested in the markers left behind at pilgrimage sites. Placed anonymously and often hidden from view, ‘Ex-Voto’ are offerings left by pilgrims as signs of gratitude, hope and devotion, creating a tangible narrative between faith, person and the landscape. Taken at the pilgrimage site of Relig Ghobnatan, Ballyvourney (Ireland), the project encompasses formal portraiture, large format landscape and small, detailed still-lifes of the objects and markers left behind.