David Spero – Urban Churches

Taking one of my regular looks at the ‘Conscientious‘ blog I was interested to see a familiar building from Finsbury Park, London, the former cinema which became the ‘United Church of the Kingdom of God.’

This is one of a series of 15 churches in various odd buildings mainly around London photographed by David Spero, a photographer born in 1963 who studied at the Royal College of Art. Most of the locations in the series were familiar to me, although in one or two cases I’d photographed the same buildings before they were in use as churches.

Spero goes for the clear overall view, and does it well, and like
Jörg Colberg I find this the most impressive of his projects. Part of the reason for this is I think in the very variety of the buildings concerned as in some of his other projects (both when I’ve seen them on gallery walls and on his web site) I find the images too similar. Of course to Spero this was perhaps the point, but I find it a little tedious and long for a little more surprise in the next image in some of his work.

Some of projects in the ‘archive’ section of the site are represented by a very small number of images. ‘Interiors‘, ‘Boardrooms‘, ‘Control Towers‘ look like promising areas, but what he shows us is enough to tantalise but not to satisfy. It seems hardly worth putting only 4 or 5 images from each on the site – it isn’t as if the web was an expensive medium to use.

The churches project is a good example of how concentrating on a small subject and presenting it can work well. Although I’ve shown images of such urban buildings pressed into new use, and particularly images of black-led churches, I’ve never approached it as a discrete subject in this way.

Finsbury Park

One of my best-hidden web sites does however take a look at Finsbury Park and the surrounding area (although I’ve also photographed it on quite a few other occasions.) The pictures I put on those pages were made when I had just started to work seriously with a Hasselblad Xpan, and don’t actually include the church/cinema though I’ve photographed it on several occasions and probably while making these images.

Finsbury Park
Finsbury Park, London, 2002

A rather prettier picture of the New River in Finsbury Park from the series actually won a photo competition concerned with the regeneration of the area.

At the time I posted the images and wrote on-line that I had walked around the area carrying the Hasselblad I got several messages from people telling me I must be mad to go on the streets there with an expensive camera. One at least came from someone who had lived in a flat there for some years. But if you are sensible – and at least slightly street-wise, London remains a very safe city.

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