Typography Uncharted - Churchex is the new Urbex

February 06, 2016



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I have to say that I have a fascination for decay and dereliction in architecture. 

Urban exploration (Urbex) is one of the hot topics for photographers world wide. 

A derelict Hopwood Hall, Middleton, UK

Yet, after spending several hours photographing such places on commission, I have to admit that the fascination wears off, and one plaster strewn floor looks like the next. 

It was after spending several weeks photographing a series of churches for the Churches Conservation Trust that I realised that such places have a similar draw to that of urbex. 

Ambient and changing light levels. Textures and colour and the odd leaning arch. I even found leaky roofs, rodents and damp floors. There you go...

But, that's where the similarity ends. 

In the church, I found the rewards far deeper and engaging...and they're legally accessible. 

St John the Baptist, Inglesham, UK

Not only are such places full of jaw dropping HDR stretching, UV filter cracking vistas - they are also perfectly formed jewel boxes with the embryonic strands of 20th century design.

There's something to keep you informed and engaged beyond the initial buzz of the bat strewn bell tower. 

In each church I noted different styles that had developed over hundreds of years, including the evolution of furniture design; the development of pattern, colour and decoration. Changes in social interaction combined with precursors of technology that we use today. 

Most fascinating of all, a very appealing procession and progression of typography.

Yes I am talking font design here, not of the stone vessel type but of the text type.

Visiting a large number of churches over a short period made the juxtaposition of the typography used in the churches very striking.

Churchex in macro - ageing type at Saint Bartholomew's, Richards Castle.

This image is available in the A Type series.

What is encouraging, is that with this in mind, our churches may no longer be the sole bastion of ecclesiastical junkies sketching details of the Romanesque font, but also sources of design inspiration for those more interested in fonts of the Sans Serif type.

Church anoraks need to tread lightly. The secret is out….

Slumbering behind the daubed walls of every church in the country, we have the most educative and inspirational mix of spatial beauty and decorative design.

There is no other building type like it, and because they are like cultural conduits spreading their roots through several centuries - there never will be. 

Such a unique combination has a real cultural gravity, and has the ability of engaging far more people than we dare think.

Churchex is the new urbex. 

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These words are an evolution of an article I wrote for Country Life magazine