Contextual Research | William Christenberry

In the search of trying to further contextualise my work and find meaning within my intent. I have conducted a broad range of contextual research, looking at the various approaches of photographers whose work resonates. An example of this, is the work of William Christonberry. For some time I have been contemplating his work amongst others with a very loose interpretation of their approach when shooting my own work. 

William Christenberry | Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alabama, 1984.

Photographing buildings and structures has formed a large part of my intent within this module however I often overlook such work when editing as I see these types of photographs as being without romance and totally banal which I fear represents my own failings and lack of objectivity, possibly looking at the work of the likes of Shore and Christenberry I am enchanted by the American landscape. The weather, colour and landscapes transport one to a phantasm of what life would be like if I lived in a similar location. On assessment of this module, looking at the quite brilliant compositions of someone such as Alex Webb, I fear that my obsession with composition has clouded my judgement. I feel that I am able to say this as Christenberry’s focus on the vernacular of his home serves to encapsulate a sense of veracity within his work. Romero in Christenberry (2013:p9) writes ‘Christonberry constructs an account of the South of the United States from within that South’. Romero’s statement here resonates with my own approach as my current work puts me at the centre of an insular community and in my subjective viewpoint of that community. With this in mind I am drawn back to the vernacular buildings photographed by Christenberry and upon lengthy contemplation, I am led to argue that I feel the work of Christenberry as opposed to awning over it in the way I might with Alex Webb. In feeling this work, I am able to take a sense of peace from many of his photographs and am able to enjoy and recognise, not the place, but the peace I take from someone photographing their home. The vernacular of home and with total confidence that the work evokes a powerful response. Philosophically, I am now looking at my own work in order to prepare myself for the presentation. And the work of Christenberry is important to me in the sense of someone working and reflecting a place that they know and understand. 

Andrew Findlay | North Reddish Park

When reviewing work of this nature I am conscious that the aesthetic associated within my photographs is often very grim. In terms of colour I am often uncomfortable with presenting so many images of grey concrete, I am also rather board of the colour green in my football pictures. However, the choices I have made to date, I feel are reflective of the community that my biographical narrative is intending to create. When I consider my formative years as a child growing up within this place, I think about the sense of adventure, I was also hopeful that my future wouldn’t feature these places and a sense of getting off the estate was certainly an ambition I had from an early age. Making regular visits back to some of the places I spent my childhood, I no longer feel like an active part of the community although I certainly know this community. The act of revisiting invokes a sense of what my life was like but isn’t anymore. 

Christenberry, W (2013) William Christenberry. New York, Foundation Mapfre.

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