Jan. 19, 2024
The Briscoe Center mourns the loss of John Christian, whose documentary photography found beauty in the ordinary. He presented an unadorned and enthralling view of Austin, the Lone Star State, and beyond. Christian’s work captured central Texas in a moment of transition, with images that depicted the reality of Austin from dive bars and abandoned buildings to raucous blues shows and quiet churches.
“He had the opportunities and insights to be gained by living among and being well accepted by people whose lives he documented, the Huichol,” says JB Colson, UT Professor Emeritus School of Journalism and Media, and a friend of Christian. “His work in Texas and Mexico are a significant addition to the Briscoe’s holdings.”
Christian was born in Sherman, Texas, on October 27, 1940. The son of a mining engineer, he spent his early years in Mexico City and mining districts in and around central Mexico. His works appeared in Texas Monthly, Popular Photography, The San Francisco Review of Art, Cuartoscuro, and Mexico Desconocido. In 1976, he received The University of Texas at Austin’s Dobie Paisano Fellowship for his documentary work on the Huichol Indians. Christian was a common sight both on The University of Texas campus and in the Cherrywood neighborhood where he lived. In both his life and work, he displayed a natural, empathetic curiosity that will be dearly missed.
The Briscoe Center holds the John Christian Photograph Collection, comprised of Christian’s work from 1968 through 1993. Subjects include Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and other locations around Texas; Los Angeles, California; fellow artists and photographers; Black Texans; Texas blues musician Mance Lipscomb; and a Monarch butterfly expedition.