Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1936, William Christenberry grew up in the ‘deep south’ where old road signs, deteriorating buildings, and dirt roads shaped his boyhood memories. In 1954, Christenberry began his academic career at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa where he studied the fine arts and graduated with a Master of Arts in Painting in 1959. During his early career, Christenberry was primarily a painter, but began incorporating the use of a Brownie camera into his working procedures. In 1961 he moved to New York to gain exposure to the energies of city life and the international art community. It was here that Christenberry befriended Walker Evans, the celebrated photographer of the Farm Security Administration, who documented the devastating effect of the Great Depression in the South. Evans’s photographs, many from Christenberry’s hometown, published in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men particularly influenced Christenberry’s work as an artist.
In 1967, Christenberry moved to Washington, where he joined the faculty of the Corcoran School of Art and Design, where he continues today as a professor of photography. Since 1968 Christenberry’s pilgrimages home to visit family in his native Hale County, Alabama became occasions for artistic inspiration. Through a variety of media, Christenberry explores the effects of time on his boyhood home by choosing subjects such as buildings, signs, and found objects. Christenberry believes that all objects leave their individual mark on the landscape as time passes, even when the object is destroyed in reality.
Today Christenberry’s work experiments with the many positive and negative emotional responses art can trigger. Christenberry’s international stature continues to grow as his work is featured in many museums throughout the United States and abroad, including The Phillips Collection.