Celebrating William Christenberry

William Christenberry, who depicted rural Alabama through photographs, paintings and sculpture, died on Monday, November 28, in Washington, DC. He was 80. Known for photographs that measured the passage of time and evoked a sense of place in a region with a rich history darkened by racial and social injustice, Christenberry was one of the pioneers of color fine-art photography in the 1970s, working first with a Kodak Brownie snapshot camera before he incorporated 8×10 and 35mm cameras into his practice. Christenberry produced his work largely through annual trips to Hale County, Alabama which he thought of as home. His photographs show time’s effect on the landscape and humble rural architecture.

© William Christenberry

“I don’t want my work thought about in terms of nostalgia,” Christenberry said in an interview in 2005. “It is about place and sense of place. I only make pictures when I go home. I am not looking back longing for the past, but at the beauty of time and the passage of time.” Christenberry’s work also acknowledged the terrible racial history of the deep South through his piece “The Klan Room,” a tableaux of images of Ku Klux Klan events he surreptitiously photographed in the 1960s, paintings of Klansmen and sculptures.


© William Christenberry

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