William Andrew Christenberry Jr. (5 November 1936 – 28 November 2016) was an American photographer, painter, sculptor, and teacher who drew inspiration from his childhood in Hale County, Alabama. Christenberry focused extensively on architecture, abandoned structures, nature, and extensively studied the psychology and effects of place and memory. He is best known for his haunting compositions of landscapes, signs, and abandoned buildings in his home state. Christenberry is also considered a pioneer of colored photography as an art form; he was especially encouraged in the medium by the likes of Walker Evans and William Eggleston.
William Andrew Christenberry Jr. was born on 5 November 1936 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the oldest of three children. His father tried to attend college but found it too expensive and spent his life working as a delivery man for a bakery and a salesman of dairy and insurance. His mother, Ruby Willard Smith, was a tax assessor and homemaker; she also created textiles which went on to become family heirlooms. Christenberry’s grandparents on both sides operated farms in Hale County, which was where his childhood summers were spent. In 1944, Christenberry and his sister received a Brownie camera as a joint Christmas gift, a gift which would remain important throughout his career. He studied painting and sculpture at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and earned his B.F.A. in 1958 and an M.F.A. in 1959. Christenberry was originally influenced by Abstract Expressionism and his studies under Melville Price, but later found himself more attracted to the type of realism attributed to Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.