Saturday, February 24, 2007

Click on first image to view this series as a slide show.
Updated Feb. 2022
The Happy Baby, 1988
Printed 1988

4x5 Polaroids made, studied and given to subjects before exposing film. I worked with this material through 2010 until 4x5 Polaroids became obsolete, then  starting digital color.


      "Time spent with people making pictures together, let’s them reckon' their pictures out for themselves."

            For years I go back to photograph the same folks again and again, giving them the previous year's images and photographing anew. Sometimes the very first session produces the most exciting images. I continue to visit and revisit  photographing. We get to know each other, becoming familiar, sharing our lives. With some, I'm surprised when I get a good picture the first visit and with others it can take several photo sessions over years.

The White Truck, 1998
Printed 2021

The Garden, 1998
Printed 2021

Brandon and Friends, 1999
Printed 2021
Hardshell Caney Creek

                                                                2 X 4 Porch, 2000
                                                                    Printed 2021

                                                                     Jerry and Darrell, 2000
                                                                              Printed 2021

Cecil's Home, 2000
Printed 2021

Baby with No Name, 2001
printed 2021

Changing Gas Tanks, 2001
Printed 2021

Imogene, Stephanie & Brittany, 2003
Printed 2021

Stephanie and Brittany, 2006
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Junior, 1980
Printed 1986

Junior, Rosa Lee and Baby, 1985
printed 1987

Johnny and his Boy's at Pig Pen, 1981
Printed 2021

The Scott Brothers, 2006
Printed 2021
[photo made in front of closed fruit stand]

Pauline, 1985
Printed 90

Pauline, 2019
Printed 2019

Scance and Family, 2010
Printed 2019 

4X5 Polaroid on Left-Scance's Daughter [left] with Scance, 2003    Right- Close up of Scance 2005.

Reene, 2006
Printed 2010

Renee's Grandchildren, 2006
printed 2010

Bucky, 1987
printed 2020

Crystal, 1987
Printed 1987

The Newsome Children, 1997
[Christina far left]
Photo above Published in  Appalachian Legacy, 1998
Remaining series of three images, newly printed.

Christina, 1998
Printed 2021

Christina & Baby, 2005
Printed 2021

Christina & Baby, 2011
Printed 2021

Church Sign, Perry Co.

Red Fox Home, photo made 1973
Printed 2022, Half Dove-Tail cut logs, home built before the Civil War.

Cabin at Ice, KY 1973
printed 2022

Three Dogs, Three Men and a Truck, 2003
Printed 2003

Boy with Basketball, 1986
printed 2021

Caney Creek Boys, 1987
Printed 2021

Hub, 2005
Printed 2020

“Through making moonshine for three generations, a mountaineer can refine his formula making medicine to help humanity.”

Father and Son, 1982
Pistol City
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998


  •            "Above all else Adams wants his images to reflect within the creative moment a mutual empathy and participation between himself and his subjects. But in order for such opportunities to flourish and be repeatable in photograph after photograph the full range of human emotions, prejudices, memories, and forgiveness have to be available to the process and allowed as part of it, which Adams describes as “our mutual transcendence” within both the Appalachians and himself."
  •                                            —James Enyeart
  •                                                                                           Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Noble's Porch, 1999
Lloyd Dean [Grandfather] located in middle of composition behind grandson.
Published in Appalachian Lives, 2003

Lloyd Dean with Brother Lewis, 2008
Printed 2008

Jason, Lloyd Dean's Grandson, photographed beside my 4x5 Linhof, 1999.

Lloyd Dean with grandson's holding promo brochure for salt and truth, June 2011.
[Adam, in middle is holding herbs from root digging.]


Eddie Wayne in Living Room, 2010
[Nora's son]
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Nora holding layout proof of her son Eddie's photo, as his picture appeared in salt & truth.

Nora's Bedroom, '95
Nora [In mirror composition] as she posed for her photo 15 years before I photographed her son in same family home.
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998


As Krishnamurti taught, the observer is the observed; when that is found, there is no longer conflict between the viewer and the image. As the Gnostic Jesus said, “The kingdom is within you and it is without you. If you do not know yourself, then you are in poverty and you are poverty.” Our original mountain settlers came from a proud and independent spirit; made up of diverse peoples and they never considered themselves living in poverty.  My books have become valued keepsakes in the homes of many participants over generations. We know each other and we exchange and embrace confidences as all families do.

                                                                     Shelby Lee Adams
                                                            We Are Still One People


Martha and Kizzie with Recycled Water Bottles, 2009
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

The Purse, '05
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

The Joseph's Porch Mirror, 1993
Printed 2021

The Joseph's Porch, 1994
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998

What's important to remember is that while

barriers have been used to divide us, as
humans we are all the same. Some are more
 privileged than others, but with that privilege 
comes a responsibility to do more.

Ai Weiwei

Self-Portrait with Martha and Kizzie, 1992
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998

Kizzie, 2008
Printed 2010

Kizzie by Flowerpots, 1995
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998


Dan, Cassy and Leddie, 1993
[Leddie on far right.]
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Dan, "Driving Straight To Hell," 1998
Published in Appalachian Lives, 1998

Shelby and Dan
Photographer, Charlotte Ostervang 


Tyler and Sheba, 2001
Published in Appalachian Lives, 2003

Sheba Asleep, 2007
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011


Girl's in Onion Patch, 2004
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Freddie's Place, 2004

4x5 Polaroids made with family before making final image on film of Freddie's Place.
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Hermie, 1987
Printed in 2011

The Jacobs Girls, 1987
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993

Appalachian Dracula With Granny, 1992
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998

Young man in photo holding poster publishing Appalachian Dracula with Granny, published in Finland, in the year 2000.
Poster was used to advertise museum exhibit. 

Jesse Estep, 1986
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993

Scotty, 1993
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998

Hillard, 1989
printed 1990

Man on River Caney, 87
Printed 1987

Born To Loose, 1987
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993

Debbie, 1983
Printed 1986

Vanessa, 2007
[Standing in front of Great Grandmother's Photo]
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Linda, 81

Boy in Pistol City, 1983
Printed 1990

The Rambo Boy's, 1987, Pistol City
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993

Where you come from

When you come from the head of the holler and leave for whatever purpose, you eventually gravitate back to your starting place, to observe and participate, finding a more all encompassing perspective, moving forward; from what some deny. That world may be inhabited by the shunned, neglected or even arrogant; that rumble with contradictions and self deceptions, but that is your home, where your true voice and your found vision lie. Your experiences develop into your recognition of these people, the ignored who cry, lament, love and beg you to say - I exist, even when they deny you.

Shelby Lee Adams
August 2007


We need an unprejudiced mind to see what-is; we cannot see what-is and respond to it if the mind is trying to change or suppress it. We resist what-is because we are afraid of the unknown, or because what-is contradicts what we have been conditioned to believe, or because it threatens us. The resulting fear prevents us from accepting what-is. Resistance to what-is may look like strength, but actually arises from fear, whereas it is powerful and freeing to accept what-is.

Surrender means allowing life to happen rather than opposing the flow of life, accepting the present moment without resistance. The necessary action will then arise, but when we act out of acceptance rather than resistance, we act without negativity or judgment. Action that arises out of acceptance is different from action that arises out of rage and hatred. Action that arises from a state of surrender is less contaminated with judgment and the need to hurt others. We simply do what needs to be done without labeling the situation as good or bad according to the ego’s criteria.

Lionel Corbett
Psyche and Sacred

Shelby Shepherd, 1989
4x5 Film Version.

Shelby, 1989, Polaroid made when clouds came over changing the light.

4x5 Polaroid Made with Shelby, 1990, one year later.

Wasp,  2005
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Pool Hall, 1999
Printed 2011

Bobby, 2003
Printed 2004

Vicco, 1997
printed 1998

Billy Ray, 2003
[inside bus, Saul]
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Billy Ray's bus from the outside, Saul, Ky, 2018
Photo by Heidi

Brenda, 2004
Printed 2005
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

4x5 Polaroid studies made with Brenda before exposing film.
Polaroids damaged by rain.

James and Clapper, 2006
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Frankie with Shucky Beans, 2002
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Jane with Diddles, 1994
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998

Maudie, 1996
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998

Peggy and Albert, 1999
Published in Appalachian Lives, 2003

Photo made with Peggy and Albert when in 2003 their photo was published
in Appalachian Lives and they had just received their copy.

Ellis Bailey, 1989
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993


The Divide

Leddie with Children, 1990
Published as cover,  Appalachian Portraits, 1993.

Lawrence's Porch, 2006
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Estill with Family and Dogs, 2000
Published in "Appalachian Lives," 2003.

Lloyd Dean with Family and Coal Truck, 2002
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Robbie and Tyler on Wrecker, 2003
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Benny and Arch, 2006
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

The Napier Brother's with Puppies, 1993
Published in Appalachian Legacy, 1998

The Home Funeral, 1990
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993

Hort's Corner, 1993
Published in Appalachian Legacy 1998

Tool Shed, 1987
Printed 2021



Natasha, 2003
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011



Lloyd Dean with Grandson's and pool table, 2006
Published in Salt & Truth, 2011

Josh, 1999
Printed 1999

Nikki, 1999
Printed 2000

Nikki and Bobbie Joe, 2001
Published in Appalachian Lives, 2003

Nikki with her Dad holding group photo book "Presumed Innocence," with her photo represented.
Published 2008

Corrine and Baby, 1983
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993.

Shelby Photographing Children Halloween, 2006

Burley in Cowboy Hat holding Grandbaby

Baby in Doorway, 2006

Lost Creek Farm, 1996

Aunt Sally

Aunt Sally and Donnie, 2003

John, 2006
[age 90]

         “You couldn’t buy a job back in the depression. I went to work when I was 20 years old. I was lucky if I made a dollar a day. I thought more of my family than myself. I couldn’t get work back here in the mountains. I had to go look off from here, to Indiana.”

         “They’s’ a lot of money in circulation now. Young People can do what they want; the government keeps money in here now. It go’s on today. They’s’ men making a hundred dollar’s a day and can’t make it. They’s’ just bad management, each day making money. I just can go so far, with men like that. I’m on a fixed income.”

John McIntosh

Photo of Shelby and John together made in 2007 at John's home, Busy, Ky.

Kate, 103 Year's Old, 1986
Printed 1986

103 Year Old Woman and Family, 1986
Published in Appalachian Portraits, 1993

Melony, 83

Bert with Jesus Picture's, 1992

Contact sheet above from, 1992, "Bert with Jesus Picture's," After several 4x5 Polaroids were made I began exposing the above scanned 4x5 film, first I asked Bert to hold something that was close to him, something precious, we made a couple images with his guitar, then he just wanted to stand, followed by sitting in chair, the last sitting in chair photo was the one I selected to make a final print. In that photo Bert was joking with his niece about having his photo made. The last two images [far right] are what I call my community service work, making photos of family for their uses. I hope to find and post soon the original Polaroids first made.

Mitchel and Dallas,'08

The Reception, 1999
[Roy and Nadine's Wedding]

Emmett, 1983

Mildred and Baby 1986

         “If it’s your worse enemy and they come to your door and ask for food, feed them. You can go back to fightin’ later, stop to feed them first.”

                                                               —Mildred, Hindman

Sherman and Baby, 2002

         “You have a chance to tell our stories, something we can never do, something’ we could never have an opportunity to do. If it was easy, you wouldn’t be interested in doin it! It just wouldn’t get done, but, you can tell our stories and that is our history and it shows times changed.”

                                                                        —Sherman, Carrie

Grandma Frankie Holding Her Daughters Twins, 1992
Reprinted 2022

Sherman and family studying book dummy of, "Appalachian Lives," before publication, 2003

Lynn Fork Men, 1989  and  Lynn Fork Women, 1989

Title: Do Not Come In, 1989, Delphia  
Sign reads - Anyone wearing Shorts or Short Dresses or Anyone Drinking - Do Not Come In
Published in "Appalachian Portraits," 1993


“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

© Shelby Lee Adams
, 2010-2022

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