Born in Hale County, Alabama, in 1936, William Christenberry has used photography, painting, and sculpture to document and explore the vanishing vernacular architecture of the American South. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama. Encouraged by Walker Evans and influenced by Evans’ and James Agee’s 1941 book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, based on the pair’s travels in Hale County, Christenberry continued photographing the county with a Kodak Brownie camera. He was eventually persuaded by friends and photographers Nicholas Nixon, William Eggleston, and Lee Friedlander to switch to a more sophisticated camera. He is best known of his large-format color photographs of buildings and signage. Although he has lived in Washington, DC, and has taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design since 1968, he has returned to Hale County annually to photograph and create sculptures based on his experiences there.
Christenberry received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and is held by collections including the Center for Creative Photography; the George Eastman House; the Museum of Modern Art; the National Museum of American Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Additionally, he and his work have been the subject of six monographs. He is represented by Pace/MacGill Gallery.