SHELBY LEE ADAMS
Salt & Truth
September 8, 2011 through October 15, 2011
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 8, 7-9 pm
The Fahey/Klein Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition featuring a selection of photographs by Shelby Lee Adams from his upcoming publication, “Salt & Truth” (Candela Books, 2011). A native of Kentucky, Shelby Lee Adams has been recording the individuals, families, and communities of Appalachia for nearly forty years. Following word of mouth introductions only, the subjects of Shelby’s portraits are comprised of Adams’ friends and acquaintances from the close-knit families in Appalachia, a historically tight-knit community. Adams approaches his subjects with respect, care, and grace as he is welcomed into their homes and lives.
In the introduction to his latest book, Adams helps to explain the title “Salt & Truth”, which is also partially inspired by a passage from a Cormac McCarthy novel. Adams states, “Today, it is becoming more difficult to find actual salt-of-the-earth people. They are disappearing as we are overrun by a more sugarcoated society… The families that have always lived here, many for more than a couple hundred years, are being dispersed by a new breed of Appalachian. There are land developers driving Hummers and Escalades, owning odd-shaped swimming pools and mansions built into the mountaintops after the coal is removed and the mountains reshaped… It is a more varied world now. Salt preserves wholesomeness and prevents decay. Salt lasts. And these hard-formed people from earlier times are still here, even as their population declines.”
“Adams recognizes the there is also an implied connection between truth and salt, which relates directly to his work and to his Appalachian subjects. Truth, as a state of mind and matter, is an aspiration for Adams in making his photographs and it is also reflected in the honesty and integrity of the individuals that he chooses as subjects. They see themselves exactly as they desire the camera to see them, which is without exaggeration or distortion.” (James Enyeart, Mutual Transcendence, “Salt & Truth”, 2011)
Adams states of his own approach to photographing his subjects, “Although I am working within a single culture, a culture in transition, I am also collaborating with unique individuals, families, and communities. I must know, understand, and be accepted by a range of people. Often these relationships have developed over a period of years, so that, before I make my photograph, I have established a strong rapport with my subjects. I sometimes visit without the intention of taking a picture, only to have the idea of a particular photograph emerge in the moment or later as I reflect on what I have observed. What makes my work unusual is that the hours of traveling and visiting are just as important as the photographs, which are expressions of my love for these people and this place.” (“Appalachian Lives”, University Press of Mississippi, 2003)
Shelby Lee Adams has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. His publications include “Appalachian Portraits” (University Press of Mississippi, 1993), “Appalachian Legacy” (University Press of Mississippi, 1998), and “Appalachian Lives” (University Press of Mississippi, 2003). In 1978 and 1992, Adams was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Grant. In 2010, Shelby was awarded the Guggenheim Photography Fellowship.