Christian Patterson discusses the re-release of Redheaded Peckerwood, comparisons to Truman Capote, and photographic secret codes.
After much anticipation, the third edition of Redheaded Peckerwood (MACK, 2011)—Christian Patterson’s widely lauded monograph—is finally available. The self-taught artist, who worked for William Eggleston in the early to mid-2000s, produced his first monograph, Sound Affects, in 2008, which pays homage to Memphis, Tennessee’s music culture. Redheaded Peckerwood is the culmination of Patterson’s five-year study of the murder spree that Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate committed through Nebraska and Wyoming in 1957 into 1958. It is a multi-faceted body of work that includes not just photographs, but actual pieces of evidence from the crimes, re-worked to fit into Patterson’s new narrative. After hearing him speak in late 2012 as part of the International Center of Photography’s lecture series, I was even more intrigued about the process of creating Redheaded Peckerwood, which has come to define Patterson’s style. When I met with him in his Brooklyn studio, he was editing the photographs he had shot on a recent trip back to his hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for a small-run book he’s working on as a reprieve before tackling his next big project.
Jacob Pastrovich How did you end up coming to New York from Wisconsin?
Christian Patterson I had a camera for a while, but I didn’t become interested in photography until after I moved to New York. I didn’t study art, but I was in a student organization in college that involved coming to New York once a year and like many people, I was very excited and blown away by the city and each year I came back I became more comfortable. When I came here, I had no idea I’d be doing some of the things I did or some of the things I’m doing now. I was offered a job in a completely different line of work and industry but that brought me here initially, and when I got here I began exploring the city, wanting to get the know it more, bringing my camera along, inevitably popping in and out of galleries, museums, and bookstores and seeing work that inspired me to try to make better pictures. It turned into an obsession.