Shelby Lee Adams

Adams

Shelby Lee Adams was born in Hazard, a small town in eastern Kentucky. Although he grew up in the back seat of his father's car, moving from place to place, he always returned to Hot Spot, living with his grandparents while he attended high school. Living between the worlds of country and town kids, Adams didn’t always feel he fit in, finding solace in art and photography books and most things affiliated within the visual the arts.

This was the mid 1960s and the Peace Corps and other government agencies had a great interest in the poverty sweeping the people of Appalachia. When the media visited his home town, Adams naturally wanted to help, taking them to meet his grandparents and his uncle so the media could be introduced to the area. When the media described locals as malnourished and poor, his friends and family felt betrayed. This devastated Adams, who felt he had misled the people he so dearly loved -- an experience that had a profound impact on him, leading him to later photograph the people of Appalachia.

It wasn't until he left Kentucky and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art that he understood the lessons he learned from the country people. Finally surrounded by artists, he experienced a complete culture shock, embarrassed by his Appalachian upbringing, telling people he was from Cincinnati. As an art school student for a short time he stayed away from Hazard and his family, searching for a new identity. By his second year in art school, Adams was exposed to the FSA photographers who were sent to the South to document people who were living in hardship. Although initially defensive about the FSA work, Adams submerged himself in documentary books, showing them to his family on a summer visit. His uncle, a county doctor, took him on house calls to meet people similar to the ones in the books. More than thirty five years later, Shelby Lee Adams is still visiting these people, returning year after year, visiting, studying and documenting their lives.

In his new works, Adams introduces us to families who have moved out of the remote mountain hollers into trailers, where satellite dishes dominate the landscape. Whether photographing a father and child surrounded by their cows, a family gathering on a porch during Halloween or an older couple posing with their dog in front of a new satellite dish, Adams's images are compelling, we want to both turn away and stare. That Adams returns to the mountains year after year is a testament to his dedication to work within their challenging environment while expressing their vulnerability, yet maintaining and expressing their dignity. Although he now lives in Massachusetts, Shelby Lee Adams's heart is forever in Appalachia.

All black and white images are available as 16 x 20" and/or 11 x 14" toned gelatin silver prints made in editions of 25. Pieces range in price from $900 to $3000, depending on size and availability.

Please call: (312) 266-2350 for prices of specific pieces.
Prices are print only unless otherwise indicated.


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Shelby Lee Adams
105 Degrees at the Napier's, 1994
Shelby Lee Adams
Amanda with Dolls, 2002
Shelby Lee Adams
Benny & Arch, 2006
Shelby Lee Adams
Berthie Napier with Pipe and John, 1992
Shelby Lee Adams
Billy Ray, 2003
Shelby Lee Adams
Brenda , 2004
Shelby Lee Adams
Children with Blind Horse , 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
Christian, 1999
Shelby Lee Adams
Clay and Clora Woods , 1999
Shelby Lee Adams
Crow and Brice under Peach Tree, 1993
Shelby Lee Adams
Dan, Krissy & Leddie, 1993
Shelby Lee Adams
Darrel & Arch Napier, 2007
Shelby Lee Adams
Donnie with Baby and Cows, 1999
Shelby Lee Adams
Driving Straight to Hell, 1988
Shelby Lee Adams
Eagle's Nest, 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
Eddie Wayne Living Room, 2010
Shelby Lee Adams
Eric with Spike the Rooster, 2001
Shelby Lee Adams
Ester & Oma Jean , 2006
Shelby Lee Adams
Frankie with Shucky Beans, 2002
Shelby Lee Adams
Halloween Porch , 1999
Shelby Lee Adams
James, 2003
Shelby Lee Adams
James with Clapper, 2006
Shelby Lee Adams
Jamie & NayBug, 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
Jeffrey & Adam, 2004
Shelby Lee Adams
Jerry at James' Funeral, 2009
Shelby Lee Adams
Jimmy's Mantel, 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
Johnny in Garden, 2001
Shelby Lee Adams
Kasie Dawn, 2000
Shelby Lee Adams
Kizzie at Flowerpots, 1995
Shelby Lee Adams
Larry in Garage, 2004
Shelby Lee Adams
Lawrence's Porch, 2006
Shelby Lee Adams
Leddie with Children, 1990
Shelby Lee Adams
Leslie, 2007
Shelby Lee Adams
Lila and Goose, 2001
Shelby Lee Adams
Lloyd Deane with Family and Coal Truck, 2002
Shelby Lee Adams
Louverna, 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
Louverna's Funeral, 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
Loyd Dean's Pool Table, 2006
Shelby Lee Adams
Martha and Kizzie with Recycled Water Bottles, 2009
Shelby Lee Adams
Mitchel & Dallas, 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
Napier Brothers with Puppies, 1993
Shelby Lee Adams
Nikki and Bobbie Jo, 2001
Shelby Lee Adams
Nora's Bedroom, 1995
Shelby Lee Adams
Pairet with Grandchildren, 2000
Shelby Lee Adams
Paul with Satellite Dishes and Helicopter, 2000
Shelby Lee Adams
Peggy and Albert Campbell, 1999
Shelby Lee Adams
Pete and Stacey, 1999
Shelby Lee Adams
Sheba Asleep, 2007
Shelby Lee Adams
Slone's on Porch, 1988
Shelby Lee Adams
Stephanie & Brittany, 2006
Shelby Lee Adams
Tammy in Culvert , 2008
Shelby Lee Adams
The Home Funeral, 1990
Shelby Lee Adams
The Napier's Living Room, 1989
Shelby Lee Adams
The Offering, 1988
Shelby Lee Adams
Tyler and Sheba, 2001
Shelby Lee Adams
Vanessa, 2007
Shelby Lee Adams
Vertie Slone and Son, 2000
Shelby Lee Adams
Wasp, 2005