Tuesday, March 4, 2014

William Christenberry Career Retrospective

William Christenberry, one of the Masters of Southern photography, has recently published a volume, entitled appropriately William Christenberry, that provides us with a retrospective overview of his long career. 

The volume was put together by François Cadava, Carlos Martin, and Justo Navarro. It contains a generous selection of Christenberry's work from all phases of his work.

Here's how the publisher describes it:

"This 260-page volume--the largest Christenberry overview yet published--offers a thematic survey of his half-century-long career. 

"The book is composed of 13 sections, each devoted to a particular series or theme: 

"the wooden sculptures of Southern houses, cafes and shops; the early, black-and-white, Walker Evans-influenced photographs of Southern interiors, taken in Alabama and Mississippi in the early 60s; documentations of Ku Klux Klan meeting houses and rallies, from the mid-1960s; 

"color photographs of tenant houses in Alabama, from 1961 to 1978; signs in landscapes, ranging from handwritten gas station signs to Klan and corporate signs; graves (which, through Christenberry's lens, emerge as a kind of folk art); churches in Alabama, Delaware and Mississippi, taken between the mid-1960s and the 80s; 

"Alabama street scenes, in towns such as Demopolis, Marion and Greensboro; street scenes in Tennessee (mostly Memphis); Southern landscapes; gas stations, trucks and cars in Alabama; and a selection from 

 "Christenberry's famous series of buildings to which he returns annually, photographing them over several decades-the palmist building, the Underground Nite Club, Coleman's Cafe, the Bar-B-Q Inn, the Green Warehouse and the Christenberry family home, near Stewart, Alabama."

Christenberry, born in Alabama in 1936, has long been recognized as a major photographer nationally as well as regionally. He has had numerous solo exhibitions over the last 40 years, most recently in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2006.

His work is in the permanent collection of a number of major museums, including Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson.

It's good to have this retrospective volume of Christenberry's work.

Along with William Eggleston, Christenberry reshaped the practice of fine art photography in the post-World War II era in the USA while developing a tradition of depiction for the American South.

We still work with that tradition, either developing it or reacting against it, and that practice gives us something of our distinctive character as photographers of the American South.

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