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Shelby Lee Adams
Shelby Lee Adams

Shelby Lee Adams

Country: United States
Birth: 1950

Shelby Lee Adams is an American environmental portrait photographer and artist best known for his images of Appalachian family life. Adams has photographed Appalachian families since the mid-1970s. He had first encountered the poor families of the Appalachian mountains as a child, travelling around the area with his uncle, who was a doctor. His work has been published in three monographs: Appalachian Portraits (1993), Appalachian Legacy (1998), and Appalachian Lives (2003).

Adams was the subject of a documentary film by Jennifer Baichwal in 2002 - The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams's Appalachia. This was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, and at the Sundance Festival in 2003. The film critiques and defends Adams' method in photographing Appalachian people for his previously published books.

Source: Wikipedia


Born in Kentucky in the town of Hazard, and later living with his grandparents in Hot Spot, Shelby Lee Adams discovered photography and the arts in high school. It was during this time that the Peace Corps sent a film crew to his town to document the poverty of Appalachia, which sparked Adams' interest in the documentary style. He attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, where in his sophomore year he was exposed to the photographs of the Farm Security Administration. These pictures document the debilitating effects of the Depression in the South during the 1930s. Adams was able to relate to the images and the subjects, inspiring him to make the pictures for which he is now best known, his photographs of the people and culture of Appalachia. He began this project in 1973 and although he has done editorial work for publications like Fortune, GQ, New York Magazine, and the New York Times, he primarily focuses on portraits of the people of Appalachia.

Shelby Lee Adams works primarily in black and white. He began with a 35mm camera and then switched to a 4x5. His crisp, poignant images show the people of Appalachia in their simple environments, revealing both the heroic and grotesque side to secluded mountain life. Adams photographs his subjects with an emphasis on the unpretty beauty of their immediate surroundings and their worn faces and clothes, their rudimentary living conditions starkly contrasted against the backdrop of a sublime landscape. But they are not depicted as victims; they confront the camera proudly and matter-of-factly. Shelby Lee Adams considers his subjects his friends, which no doubt lends a level of comfort to the shooting sessions, as they face his large camera. In his most recent work, Adams documents the infiltration of progress and media into the folkways of the Appalachian people, capturing the displacement of an agrarian economy. Drawn to the attractions of pop culture and modern life, the Appalachian people are losing interest in living off the land.

Adams' work has received a great deal of recognition. He is the recipient of a survey grant and photography fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1978, 1992), along with an artist support grant four years running from the Polaroid Corporation (1989-92). His photographs are held in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the Harvard Fogg Museum in Cambridge, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Source: International Center of Photography


 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

Thomas Wrede
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Thomas Wrede was born in 1963 in Iserlohn (Germany). He studied Fine Art in Muenster and Berlin. From 1998 until 2005 he taught photography at the Kunstakademie Muenster. During the last few years numerous exhibitions presented his works in- and outside of Germany. Particularly, the solo exhibitions at the Museum Kunst der Westkueste, Alkersum (2010), the Kunsthalle Bielefeld (2010) and at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Koeln (2007) and the following group exhibitions should be mentioned: at the National Museum for History and Art, Luxembourg (2013), the Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea (2011) and the Art Museum, Wuhan, China (2009). Since 1998 Wrede has shown his works in several galeries of the United States (New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles). Wrede's photographs have also been placed in these major art collections: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Landesmuseum Muenster, The West Collection Philadelphia, Kunst-am-Bau-projects in Berlin for the German State, UBS Zuerich & Lucerne, DZ-Bank Frankfurt. The artist won some important awards, among others the Karl-Hofer-Preis of the Hochschule der Kuenste Berlin. Thomas Wrede published all photographic series in several nice books.About Real Landscape from the Press Release by Beck & Eggeling:Thomas Wrede already counts as an established position to the Duesseldorf photography scene. His large format, quiet, but also dramatic landscape photographs fascinate in a particular way, as the observer immediately feels himself confronted with all the facets of human existence. Idyll and catastrophe, longing and debacle form the fine line of atmospheres which through Wrede's complex direction have a thought-provoking effect. Scenic cloud formations or glistening sunsets at the horizon blur the boundaries further. Point of origin of his photographic works is time and again the longing for nature. Wrede thereby utilizes in his „Real Landscapes“-series requisites from model railways, placing miniature houses and trees into real nature – at the beach, into the snow or in a nearby puddle. Yet, only a small excerpt of nature measuring at most a few steps in circumference is of concern. The observer's perception is thus set on the wrong track because in the photograph the whole setting is perceived in line with the size of the trees and houses. The illusion, generated through the inconsistencies and discrepancies of the proportions, is the result of Wrede's skilful use of his analogue plate camera with wide angle – he interferes with scales and reduces distances. A puddle thereby becomes a lake, a pile of snow turns into snowcapped mountain ranges and a few centimetres of even sand become a milelong beach.
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