Shelby Lee Adams, Hazel and Mimie, 2005, gelatin silver print, 20 x 16".

Shelby Lee Adams

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Shelby Lee Adams, Hazel and Mimie, 2005, gelatin silver print, 20 x 16".

In a statement introducing Shelby Lee Adams’s “Salt & Truth” exhibition (on view through January 7), the artist claims it has become difficult to find “authentic, salt-of-the-earth people” to photograph. Adams’s words are those of a man who, for nearly forty years, has been photographing mountain dwellers in the eastern Kentucky Appalachians (not far from where he grew up), focusing always on the lifers rather than on the newcomers, many of whom are affiliated with corporate strip mining. But if change is apparent in this part of the country, Adams’s portraits stubbornly suspend it. Recent forays into digital color aside, he has shot most of his work in black-and-white on film, framing his subjects posing frankly beside their possessions or means of livelihood. Save for an incidental logo or tattoo, seldom is post-Depression modernity in evidence. Cue the Walker Evans comparisons.

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