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Untitled (Coleman's Cafe)
William Christenberry
Untitled (Coleman's Cafe)
1971 | c-print | 3.25x4.75 | $4000

William Christenberry was born in Hale County, Alabama into a family of farmers. The setting of his rural upbringing would one day become icons of the South. He attended the University of Alabama, setting his artistic aspirations on paintings. Christenberry photographed his subjects as visual references for his paintings for many years with a Kodak Brownie camera gifted to him by his grandparents. You know, like when your side hobby makes you famous?

In the 1970s, after graduating and seeking a new adventure in New York City, he became known as a pioneer of fine art color photography. (The story has to take a turn somewhere, right?) He developed close and influential relationships with William Eggleston and Walker Evans– what a crowd! Seeing his talent, Evans “was the first one to encourage me to take photographs, the little Brownie snapshots, seriously” Christenberry noted.

Given his start with photography, Christenberry had an eye for the simple yet meaningful and he was keen to composition. Each summer he’d make a pilgrimage home, camera in tow. Abandoned and overgrown scenery, repurposed buildings with signs of their past lives still visible, dirt and not concrete– his photographs are like the vernacular of the south but through imagery. They are a language with which only a few can resonate but all can be charmed.

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