Washington, D.C. photographer, painter, sculptor, and educator William Christenberry (1936-2016) was a pioneer in the use of color photography and is known for his images of west-central Alabama and his explorations of the psychology of place.
Originally from Hale County, Alabama, Christenberry had an interest in art and photography from an early age. He earned his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Alabama and, after graduating in 1959, joined the faculty at his alma mater. After a brief stint in New York where he met Walker Evans, Christenberry took a position as assistant professor of art at Memphis State University in 1962. While in Memphis, Christenberry began exploring color photography more thoroughly while also crafting his own unique style; he also organized a small happening in Memphis in 1965.
Christenberry and his wife moved to Washington D.C. in 1968 where he took a position at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. While living in D.C., Christenberry began photographiing buildings and hand-lettered signs, and photographed other structures and scenes during trips back to Hale County.
Christenberry held solo exhibitions of his work at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Philips Collection, Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium, and many more; and participated in group exhibitions such as Visualizing the Blues: Images of the American South, 1962-2000 (2000) at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Picturing Modernity (2010) at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960 (2011) at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984, an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Alabama in 1998, and several other notable awards for artistic merit. His work may be found in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Center for Creative Photography, Birmingham Museum of Art, and many others.