Poignant and powerful, Shelby Lee Adams’ (American, b 1950) imagery of Appalachia—its people and its culture—are raw, rivoting, compassionate and genuine. Adams approaches his subjects from the perspective of an insider. He was born in the hollers of Eastern Kentucky, and as a youngster, accompanied his uncle, a family doctor, on home visits throughout the region.
Working with a 4 x 5 view camera, a wide angle lens, and lighting, Adams image-making process is one of collaboration, respect, and integrity. His crisp monochromatic photographs reveal details in striking clarity in compositions that are complex and direct, simple and poetic. Returning to the same hollers year after year, his work is a biographical and autobiographical, exploring generations of families—births, deaths, marriages-- and the changing culture and place of Eastern Kentucky’s mountain people as the modern world encroaches.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, you may enjoy this book of photographs which document the lives of people there and enriches and challenges outside perceptions of Appalachia: