For five decades, artist William Christenberry has been documenting the barbecue shacks, juke joints and crumbling rural homesteads devoured by kudzu in his native Hale County in Alabama. Every year, the 70-year-old photographer travels from his home in Washington, D.C., back again to Alabama to record what has changed, and what remains the same. Christenberry's color photographs spanning 1966-1984, and often using buildings as a measure of time's passage, will be on view at Jackson Fine Art through Dec. 23.
If you were exiled from the South forever, what do you think you would miss the most?
For me it would probably be the landscape. I'm proud of being from the South. I'm proud of the way I was raised with ties to the landscape, and love of vernacular architecture. It's what I know, and what I care deeply about.
But because of development, hasn't much of the South, including some things you have photographed, now been destroyed?
Most definitely. Every time I go home, something that had interested me visually has disappeared. I'm often disappointed when I get there to discover that what I wanted most to see has collapsed on its own, or been torn down or burned or something like that.
Despite your fixation on buildings and inanimate objects, there is a lot of affection and respect for the unseen people in your work.
I won't dismiss the idea that I really have always had a love affair with what people do with what's at hand and out of necessity. Mankind's touch on things; some people would find that ugly. But I find beauty in them.