William Christenberry dies

christenberry-5c              William Christenberry, 5 Cents, Demopolis, Alabama, 1978

American photographer William Christenberry has died at age 80.

Following the example of his friend Walker Evans, Christenberry photographed the overlooked details of America’s backblocks. He captured with feeling the details of his beloved rural Alabama, its roadside shops, old churches and fading signs.

“The place is so much a part of me. I can’t escape it and have no desire to escape it. I continue to come to grips with it. It’s a love affair — a lifetime of involvement with a place. The place is my muse.”

Christenberry was a romantic and his work shows an intimate engagemant with his subject-matter. In contrast, when Walker Evans found similar material to photograph, it was formal and classical. Christenberry took the American tradition of documentary photography into areas that Evans, Frank and others did not venture. His work extended out from photography into  painting and sculpture and most notably into making small replicas of the buildings in his pictures.

christenberry-sprott-church              William Christenberry, Church, Sprott, Alabama, 1971        christenberry-sprott-sculpture             William Christenberry, Church, Sprott, Alabama, 1976

To hear Christenberry talk about his subject, listen to this  short interview on NPR. He describes about his photograph of the tiny church in the settlement of Sprott, and what has happened to it since then.

gneville-sprott-google                   Greg Neville, Sprott Church on Google Street View, 2016

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