Monday, August 6, 2012
Shelby Lee Adams on Flak Photo
Shelby Lee Adams was recently interviewed by Catherine Edelman on the website flakphoto in connection with a show of his work at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago and publication of his new book Salt and Truth.
Adams has been photographing the people of eastern Kentucky for over three decades. You can read Edelman's interview with Adams, as well as see a generous selection of his work, here, on flakphoto.
Thanks to the fact that Edelman is a skillful interviewer, this conversation ranges widely over Adams' career, his relationships with his subjects, his photographic practice, and the controversies his work has evoked.
Adams' photographs of people who live in poverty in eastern Kentucky bring up a wide range of issues for many viewers.
My sense is that photographs share many characteristics with Rorschach ink blots. That is, the things people think of to say about photographs are often more revelatory of viewers than they are of the subjects of the photographs they are looking at.
Adams' work can be challenging to those of us who choose, or have been given the opportunity, to live under very different cultural and economic circumstances from the folks whose lives are documented in Adams' work.
In Adams' work, I see someone who regards his subjects with dignity and respect, and who collaborates with them in the making of these images.
In the midst of all the conflict and anger and courage and shame and pride and envy and resentment of being Southern, I find Adams' craft and vision exemplary.