In a country famous for its landscape and geology, where most visitors come looking for natural sights and outdoor activities, the church at the centre of Reykjavik makes for a rare man-made attraction. Hallgrimskirkja is the highest point in the city, the dominant feature of every skyline image (or the vantage point from which it was taken), but what draws people in is its unusual design.
Often featured in articles about either the most strange or the most beautiful buildings, Hallgrimskirkja was designed in the 1940s to reflect the stark, volcanic landscape of Iceland. The tower is flanked by wide concrete wings, flares of columns similar to the rock formations which form from cooling lava, dropping in a steep curve from the tower to the ground.
The whole building is at once simple and busy, brutal and elegant. The day I visited was blustery and cold, the sky a dark grey and the ground damp. Icy slush was gathered against the edges of buildings and piled in gutters beside the road, rooftops stained white by thin patches of snow.
Hallgrimskirkja sits in a wide square which offers no protection from the biting wind, and I stood outside as long as I could stand it, huddled in my coat, staring up at the tower through a drifting veil of snow. More dedicated photographers would have shielded their camera from the wind and persevered to capture the looming structure blending with the cloud, grey on grey. I came back on a sunny day later on, knowing I had plenty of time in Reykjavik and would have opportunities to photograph the outside, and went indoors.
Inside, the church was minimalist, light and open. One end contained a simple alter, the other a tall (15 meter high) organ set in the wall high above the entrance. It was the perfect place to photograph: all lines, shapes and sweeping curves.
The simple design and airy atmosphere made it one of my favourite churches to visit, alternating between soaking up the atmosphere and finding abstract patterns in the architecture. Three important elements in photography – colour, texture and light – were removed as choices by the minimal decoration, simple building materials and flat light, so I could concentrate on choosing patterns and shapes, experimenting with every angle. These are 10 of the images I made that day.