To jury this body of work was perhaps no more or less different than studying and appreciating another artist’s work or possibly attempting to edit my own photography. I look for photographs that completely engage the viewer with their composition and core matter within the print area and frame. If the subject matter of one image does not fill the frame as directly, proportionately, and heartfelt as another, then conceivably that image might be moved over for another.
Some photographs represent more completeness than others. In our humanity, some see fragmentedly, through very narrow degrees of view and multi-colored illusions. Others live, struggle and see the world distorted, blank, painful, isolated and barren. Not all behaviors are acknowledged or can be found, as film cannot record everything, both have their limitations. Yet, perhaps we should recall that most of us enter this world as a baby viewing everything with a 250-degree angle of view, in awe of everything that it focuses upon, seeing and perceiving flawlessly. Some of us are unfortunately knocked around, abused, taken from, deceived, restricted or just born deprived.
This is where the power and beauty of photography can deepen us. Through the lens of the camera with its searching concentration, we explore and find and rediscover ourselves. It makes us feel good, is exciting and fun, expressive of our inner selves. For some who have been hurt and hidden away in the shadows in order to survive, the camera with light awakens. It takes us down a road familiar that can be shared together. Photography helps make us whole again.
Many of these pictures, emotional, acted out and revealing self-portraits, faces, reflections, collages, beautiful loved and seen animals and children, nature, quiet, double-exposures, masks, sunsets, lighting flashes, tattoos, body parts, skin and the eye itself, are all representations of our search for our better selves and wholeness. To not be judged but accepted — that is our struggle and message to the larger world.
Shelby Lee Adams
Shelby Lee Adams, born 1950, in Hazard, Kentucky, has dedicated his life to photographing the hollow dwellers of Eastern Kentucky. His photographs are collected in more than 60 museum and private collections; he has exhibited in numerous one person and group exhibitions internationally. In 1993 his first book was published, “Appalachian Portraits.” In 1998 “Appalachian Legacy.” In 2003, “Appalachian Lives,” with text by Vickie Goldberg, all published by The University Press of Mississippi. In 2011, “salt & truth,” his 4th book was published by Candela Books of Richmond Virginia, with text by James Enyeart and Catherine Evans. Shelby has received numerous awards throughout his career, A National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and Survey Grant, Polaroid Corporation has awarded him grants, collected and published his work Internationally, and most recently he was awarded The John Simon Guggenheim Photography Fellowship in 2010. See http://shelby-lee-adams.blogspot.com/ for more information.