Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Salt And Truth

Big Hort- Shelby lee Adams
If you look as an observer different from the observed then you are bound to create conflict, therefore further suffering. When you have the insight, the truth of it, that the observer is the observed, then conflict ceases altogether.   -Jiddu Krishnamurti

Salt And Truth is a book that should have been on the top of every photo book list of 2011. True, Shelby Lee Adams is hardly the up and coming hipster- as for his subjects, they're as "old" as the hills themselves. But then, these iconic photos are meant to survive history, not capitalize on the latest market trend.

Lloyd Deane with Family & Coal- Shelby Lee Adams

The reproductions in this latest venture are somewhat muted- not a deep black or brilliant white to be found anywhere. That said, the sheer quality of the content and compositions to be found here quickly transcends and overwhelms my petty considerations- these images will simply not be denied. As always, Shelby Lee Adams presents a veritable tour de force in environmental portraiture, and his signature picture within a picture compositions are much in evidence once again as he guides us into the homes and environs of a people shunned by society at large, a community quite understandably mistrustful of outsiders. I suppose one could say he's the rural equivalent of Bruce Davidson, with one important caveat- Mr. Adams himself has his own family roots in the very same "hollers" he so knowingly portrays.

Tammy in Culvert- Shelby Lee Adams

That is no small distinction, and one that is made most clear in the the book's Foreward, which introduces us to the people, land and culture that are often misconstrued, misinterpreted and misrepresented- often resulting in a contentious existence on both sides, as myths and realities are interspersed into a vague conglomeration of mistrust, fear and general avoidance. Fortunately, we have these photographs to shed some manner of insight, some ray of understanding between subject and viewer alike.


Eric Rose said...

The latest print edition of Lenswork features shots from this book. Excellent study of a vanishing way of life.

Stan B. said...

Thanks, Eric- also at PDN...