Monday, April 25, 2011

New Post  Feb. 2019

Mountain Portraits and Writings

It has always been my approach to see humanity openly,
more in a state of awe or wonder, accepting,
 Accepting without labeling or judging.
As an artist portraying our fragile mortality, 
acknowledging whatever humanity is before us,
without categorizing.
This has always been my pursuit. 

—Shelby Lee Adams

Coal Miner, 1993, Little Leatherwood

Anne with Pigeon, 1995

Anne with her son Richmond, 1989

To view as slide show or to enlarge any image, click on images.

Anne, 1985

Anne and Richmond in Kitchen, 1992

Sam Mullins and Wife, Sam was 102 years old when photo was made, 1988

"Your pictures, they are about culture, showing how different people live, how one person is just different than another. You got to learn how to deal with all people. It's just like black people and white people. You know some racist, they look at it different. Not me, I look at it totally different. That's what your tryin' to show people, to me.

 That's a part of our church and everything here, in Eastern Kentucky, about God. There's love and kindness in all things and take a man, as who he is. I'm more accepting of all peoples, denominations in church, races and whatever you want to call it. I see good in all people. I've seen your ways, from growin' up under you; you're tryin' to teach people. 

 I've watched you. You're showin' they's somethin' good in all of us, as individual people. It don't take a well knowledge'd person to understand the feelin' of love and kindness, when you see it in someone and their works, you feel it."

—Terry Riddle, Viper, KY, October 2007

Rachel, Jerry and Hooch-A-Pap, 1987

 Portraits from the Mountains

                     Rachel Riddle, one of his best holler friends, who he's known and photographed for about 28 years, describes the financial and moral support Adams has provided, whether it's helping to drill a well or replace a stove that's burned up. 

"He's not trying to make something that it ain't. Makes it come out just like it ought to be. I really appreciate everything he's done for me. He's helped me out many different ways. He's like family. He's always been that way. One of these day's, I'll be a part of history. Long after I'm gone, the photographs will still be here."

—Rachel Riddle
Black & White Magazine, 2010

Newsome Boy, Polaroids, 1989

Kizzie, 2008

Merle, 1985

John and Teresa, 2008

Angie, 1992

“Most mountain people, among ourselves are just open and loving to each other, we expect everyone to see us as we do—more caring, but some never here before, misunderstand, label and see us all unfairly.”

—Rachel Riddle, Leatherwood, Kentucky

Coal Pile, 2005

Lonnie and Leddie [Sisters] 


           Is it not one’s socio-economic-political status in life that grants one’s visibility as something more important or less significant? In portraiture and human representation, faced with the inconsistency or incompleteness of a person’s form, some feel entitled to say dispassionately, that face is unsightly and unimportant, especially those who look poor. If given a chance, cannot any form of humanity be elevated, redeemed and transformed by a faithful artistic portrayal?

—Shelby Lee Adams

Belinda and Martha, 2007

Vedessa and Robert, 2005

Ted and Friend, 2004

Minerva and Jimmy

Prayer at River Baptism

The New Bicycle, 2004

Polly, 1997

Dan and Jip, 1991  [father and son]

Dan and Jip, 2012

Granny with Jesus, 1992

Leonard's Back Porch, 1992

105 Year Old Woman, 1986

Aunt Glade, 75

Travis, 2004

David, Bad To The Bones, 1985

Dressed Up Stove Pipe, 1994



Singularly, sight alone can be taken for granted, it often bounds our feelings and restricts our relationships to those so like ourselves, because we don't always want to work exploring our diverse cultures and peoples, remaining in our comfort zone.

The experience of an affirmative touch, a reassuring look, one's scent, a supporting hug all creates positive bonding—developing relationships, no 
matter what one's appearance, color or clan.

Acceptance begins with sight, then touch and an expanding heart together, all unifies us, making whole.

Yet, many resist when they see arduous differences. I have experience overcoming fears of the different, learning to keep myself flexible in the presence of others diverse. It takes practice sometimes with those more difficult.

Remaining indifferent and distancing implies the inability to connect with or acknowledge how another is, feels or perceives.

—Shelby Lee Adams

Copies of salt & truth are still available.

Published 2012, Candela Books, Richmond, VA.


“The Stories get past on and the truth gets passed over. As the sayin goes. Which I reckon some would take as meanin that the truth cant compete. But I don’t believe that. I think that when the lies are told and forgotten the truth will be there yet. It don’t move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that’s what it is. It’s the thing you’re talking about. I’ve heard it compared to the rock-maybe in the bible-and I wouldn’t disagree with that. But it’ll be here even when the rock is gone.”

“You were doin something for folks that couldnt do it for theirselves.” 

“I think the truth is always simple. It has pretty much got to be. It needs to be simple enough for a child to understand. Otherwise it’d be too late. By the time you figured it out it would be too late.”

Cormac McCarthy

No Country For Old Men

Below not a mountain writer but an important message by 
Robert F. Kennedy.

All photographs and text copyrighted - © 2004-20 Shelby Lee Adams, legal action will be taken to represent the photographer, the work taken out of context, subjects and integrity of all photographic and written works, including additional photographers published and authors quoted. Permissions - send e mail request with project descriptions.