The blog world and Facebook lead to some strange old connections. I grew up going to camp each summer in the mountains of North Carolina. For five weeks each summer and over the course of 6 years, I ran and jumped and sweated and smiled and loved the communion of mountains and music and sport and camaraderie. It was an innocent, pleasure-filled time in my life, and I'm pretty sure most of my fellow campers feel the same way. Well, an old camp friend by the great name of Perry Silver recently posted some photos on Facebook from way back in the day, and a friendship has been resumed. And come to find out, it just so happens that Mr. Silver's aesthetic interests share a very similar sensibility to mine. That is, we're both junkies for old time Americana, for environmental photography, for the slightly twisted yet beautiful, and the list goes on. But to the point of this post. Perry and I fired some emails back and forth this morning discussing the merits of photographer Shelby Lee Adams. Born in Hazard, Kentucky in 1950, Adams has spent the summers of his adulthood traveling through the Appalachian hills in which I spent much of my youth.
Adams artist statement: "Every summer, traveling through the mountains photographing, I am somehow able to renew and relive my childhood. I regain my southern, mountain accent and approach my people with openness, fascination, and respect; and they treat me with respect. My psychic antennae become sharpened and acute. I love these people, perhaps that is it, plain and simple. I respond to the sensual beauty of a hardened face with many scars, the deeply etched lines and flickers of sweat containing bright spots of sunlight. The eyes of my subjects reveal a kindness and curiosity, and their acceptance of me is gratifying. For me, this is rejuvenation of the spirit of time past, and I am better for the experience each time it happens. These portraits are, in a way, self-portraits that represent a long autobiographical exploration of creativity, imagination, vision, repulsion and salvation. My greatest fear as a photographer is to look into the eyes of my subject and not see my own reflection.
My work has been an artist search for a deeper understanding of my heritage and myself, using photography as a medium and the Appalachian people as collaborators with their own desires to communicate. I hope, too, that viewers, will see in these photographs something of the abiding strength and resourcefulness and dignity of the mountain people."
Dig in folks. This is seriously rich material: