Biographical / Historical
Photographer, documentary producer, and journalist, Christina Patoski began photographing front-lawn and front-porch Christmas displays in 1973, in Fort Worth, Texas, beginning with a house on Diaz Street in the Como neighborhood. She called the photograph "Red Extravaganza," and it inspired her to photograph other houses. Driving up and down Fort Worth Streets at Christmastime with her saxophonist husband Johnny Reno, she worked exclusively at night. Concentrating at first on the most elaborate displays, she later sought simpler, more personal decorations, and became more discriminating. She repeated in many areas of the country as part of an ongoing project spread over many years. She is interested in documenting "unusual" elements of popular culture within a variety of topical fields.
She told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "I've seen so much, that for me to stop and take a photo now, it has to be something special… I've noticed, though, that there are a lot of houses decorated this year. And to me, that indicates a sense of optimism… when people decorate, there's a sense of good feeling."
Her photographic technique is simple, employing two fifteen-year-old 35mm cameras and low-speed Kodachrome film, using commercial processing. She has been photographing since she was a child, when her father encouraged her. Graduating from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, she spent several years in Minneapolis as a dancer, choreographer, and television editor. She returned to Fort Worth in 1976 to work in television news, but since 1979 has been a free-lance writer, radio reporter (contributing to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered), and a producer and writer.
She is interested in documenting unusual elements of popular culture (what she calls "weirdness"), such as her Texas Monthly story, illustrated with her portraits, on Texas women with "big" hair. She maintains files on longhorn steer, pyromaniacs, tornadoes, and cheerleading, and considers herself a "Margaret Mead of popular culture."
Sources Jackie Koszczuk and Janet Tyson, "A Sense of the festive: Photographer captures home-grown Christmas Art," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Section E, December 25, 1993, pp. 1, 4.