Sunday, March 4, 2007

Kentucky Exhibition 2008, Quotes


Photography Exhibition
Summer 2008
"Friends are Forever"

Gate Way To Heaven Church, '95
[Pastor Bill Noble in photo]

Exhibition Location - "The Gate Way To Heaven Church"

Hardshell Cannie Creek Road, Lostcreek, Kentucky

Photography Exhibition and cook out made with four generations of the Noble Family and friends. Exhibition Photographs were distributed to families at close of exhibit.

Many of my Kentucky friends and photo subjects pictures, over the years have been published in my three books and other publications at this writing in 2008. With pictures reviewed and printed together in newspapers and photo magazines, this event is implemented to bring all together in one place to meet and celebrate. Further, I think it important my long term friends and subjects of many years have some of the same limited edition prints that are collected and exhibited outside the area. That they know their market value, have a vested interest by owning a few prints themselves, affirming the multiple values, creative and cultural worth and personal relationships recognized within these pictures. This 2008 celebration begins a tradition I will always honor full circle.

Added text - 2012
In 1998 with the publication of my second book, "Appalachian Legacy," we celebrated that book with, "Shelby's Dinner On the Ground and Book Signing Party," held at Perry Co. Park, Hazard, Kentucky, the first formal public event. In 2010 we organized a get together in Viper, Kentucky called,"The Guggenheim Party." We plan to continue these celebrations when projects and funds are available. 

Donnie with Baby and Cow's, 1999
[Noble Family]

This summer 2008 celebrates my 35Th year making pictures in this region.

Over 100 people attended the festivities June 8th, 2008

Exhibition photos now reside in many peoples homes.

"Gate Way to Heaven," Church on opening day.

Cookout side of Church.


Cake Cutting!


Exhibition inside Church.



Vanessa being photographed with Dad before taking her photograph home.

Callie with her two photographs at closing.

Jason with Father and Uncle's photo.

Jason taking home photo.

Junior with photograph of Father.

Rachel holding her family photo.

Lloyd Deane, [Brother and Sister] holding photo of their father.

Thanks to all for attending.
Photographs courtesy of Paul Paletti.

To bridge differences and open hearts between the elite and the grass roots cultures of America, photography is an excellent creative tool. Openness, directness and honest communication help. It's easier than you might think.

"Friends are Forever."



Quotes and Vision

Open our Hearts

Many have admiration for those perceived above than those of their own level or below. Many aspire to reach higher, improve themselves and innovate. Admirable, but, when close and on an equal level, some tend to distance themselves, claiming their individual separateness and isolate. Viewing others below themselves, turning away, ignoring, not helping - but pitying and ridiculing; projecting onto those less fortunate saying - seek upward-ness. How can they, without you? We all know this. We are all interconnected; open your hearts to that truth, we are all kin, see this as your personal reality and our problems and differences will begin to diminish.

Shelby Lee Adams
August 2009

Basho, 1644-1694, Japanese Poet

“Go to the pines if you want to learn about the pines, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must let go of your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and don’t learn. Your poetry arises by itself when you and the object have become one, when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden light glimmering there. However well phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling isn’t natural – if you and the object are separate – then your poetry isn’t true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit.”

Matsuo Basho


Country Manners

Seeing and non-seeing is a part of the have and have not divide. Economic disparity here collides socially. Struggle is evident often when specific rural town’s people meet country holler people, on mutual ground. For example, in a parking lot, say at a school function. Time hardened biased community leaders can be found, speaking only among themselves to their herd, defying all others by their gaze and body language, clutching and strutting themselves, mutely and barely acknowledging holler folks just met, standing among them close, 

They talk about the country folk, in front ofclose to and around them, but not directly too. As a child growing up in the mountains, I was uncertain what this behavior actually meant. I felt the awkwardness and tensions created. I was told this kept people in their place. Non-Seeing stops unconfident voices from developing ___silence causes and maintains invisible walls of isolation. Speaking of others-in third person, right beside and with you, as if they were not their, but right their. Faces in front-of you, but you are not seeing or recognizing, still “face to face.” You are face to face, as in no other place, everyone's home-place too. Non-seeing perceptions and non-affirming behaviors are weapons of control practiced here, exercising the power of who is up and over top of the one’s down and below; this has been the practice for generations. This often does transfix entire families, especially children, forever damaging. I wanted to cry out as a youth saying look here this isn’t right, this injustice of refusing to see and accept each other. 

Seeing another, as if not their. 

Freedom from my reactive conditioning to this behavior has been a long time coming. As an adult today, I still witness this biased and prejudiced control. When back home, it still causes me pain seeing and feeling those affected and so treated today. At home, many see this behavior as non-existent. Does one really get used to it?
Yes, Im afraid so.
Knowing - both sides will deny.

Shelby Lee Adams 2010


Reaching Out
Ironic that some say my photographs are misrepresenting them, when I am not photographing the established that are speaking out, but something more interior to us all, our behaviors to each other. Some rural successful are the one's who refuse and deny some of their fellow man in need of help, support and encouragement, their own neighbor's. I do not create the conditions I photograph within. 
Portraits mirror ourselves and our behaviors to each other.
I photograph within my community understanding and giving attention to some neglected and shunned isolated people. Many people are generous to their own, yet often shun and remain blind to some that could benefit from a little care and compassion. Reaching out, seeing and recognizing each other ever so slightly would begin to solve a lot of problems, in spite of differences not only in our hollers but around the world.

What does the photography accomplish?

A quote from one of Shelby's first book reviews, by John B. Stephenson 

"Any but the most casual of viewers will be drawn into relationship with Adams' friends. Their eyes reveal that, unlike ordinary portraits, these "subjects" are looking through the window of the camera into our own faces, plumbing our depths, searching our cores to know what we are really like. And who, indeed, are we? Perhaps they know more than we."

"A book to be lived with, not merely scanned, Appalachian Portraits is both art and documentary. It is an unforgettable book, as Harvard's Robert Coles says, of "unsettling intensity."

John B. Stephenson, President of Berea College, 1993

A Commitment

"To know our fragile and dependent are not seen clearly by some.
To discern that all of us come from the same earthly garden, each a part of this great humanity, mirroring ourselves - some uniquely dissimilar, yet our kin.
 Parts make whole, no part of humanity is an entity unto itself, with most always needing others.
Searching and finding ways of opening connections—accepting all—creates a more confident people.
 A greater community is created when none are excluded.
 Photographing diverse people helps me with this understanding. I hope some of my commitment is transferred onto you."



"You break bread with a man you have moved on to another level of friendship. I heard somewheres that that's true the world over."

The Sunset Limited - Cormac McCarthy


Give with Care

"I hear people say: Oh, if I were only rich, I would do great things to help people. But we all can be rich in love and generosity. Moreover, if we give with care, if we find out the exact wants of those who need our help most, we are giving our own loving interest and concern, which is worth more than all the money in the world."

Albert Schweitzer

Wide Screen

“When we were very young it was a wide, wide scene. As we grow older, however, we come to take a more restricted view. The angle of our tunnel vision may reduce to something like five degrees, on either side of which those increasingly vague objects are more or less ignored. We become wretchedly exclusive, self-occupied, narrow-minded and narrow-headed, hemmed in. We become sick.”

Douglas Harding – Look for Yourself

         My people look at their own photographs differently. They feel recognized and accepted for whom they are. They do not feel threatened by the power of photography or devalued by it, but more acknowledged. They talk of their oppressions and difficulty’s as fact. The leveling of self-importance between us brings forth a more emphatic recognition. Perhaps, only those who have suffered themselves can really understand suffering. We acknowledge what we know.

Shelby Lee Adams
March 22, 08 - Easter Sunday


Today we are suspicious of “Truth,” because we recognize that what is called truth is often only a tool in the hands of those in power, and is often determined by their beliefs and tailored to their requirements.

Lionel Corbett

Liberation - Douglas Harding

We live above ground in the light, of course, but the quality and safety of the life we live there rests upon what’s below ground in the dark.

I am what I look at.

From what I’m looking out of, I have inside information denied to all outsiders.

I’m inviting you to doubt what the world tells you about your identity, and take a fresh look at yourself. Just drop all presuppositions and be true to yourself.
Place reliance on what you perceive instead of what you conceive. Fieldwork is valuable if you are open to experience instead of speculations. You observe the observer.

We don’t see what we see, but what someone tells us to see.

What home is like – want be enough to exorcise forever the Thing that has invaded and haunted your Home all your adult life. Though it vanishes on close inspection, it returns the instant your attention wanders. It is your wraith, your doppelganger, and if you don’t keep casting it out it will cast you out and be the death of you. Everything perishes.

The viewer is the viewed and you coincide with you, where there remains nothing to perish, where you are eccentric no longer.

Get the seer moving instead of the seen.

UPANISHAD: God made the senses turn outwards, therefore a man looks outward, not into himself. But now and again a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself.

The Wide Awake One that – though homely and obvious and transparent through and through – fills me with worship and wonder at the mystery of its self-origination. Who shall set limits to the bright blessings that can arise from our growing willingness to trust what we see, instead of what we’re told to see?

Get the picture without being the screen.

Every day it becomes more apparent that “ we must love one another or die.”
Today our well based fear is to look within - is to disappear, and our baseless fear that this means annihilation – are more subtle and efficient. Everyone who sees that to disappear as a particular thing is to reappear instantly as the No-thing that is the imperishable Home of all that perishes, and that to die now is to die never.

Douglas Harding
Look for Yourself

The Art Gallery

Within the art gallery environment, all sides are equals in the same ceremony, observing and communing. Where else and how else, can this happen? The walls dividing us dissolve. The gallery represents a platform that provides a purposeful place for our mutual self-study and coexistence. Our sensitivity to cultural and humanistic diversity within the body, mind and spirit of all peoples can be expressed and respected. My life and work have been dedicated to this pursuit. SLA

We pay for the exactitude of factual language with the price of being able to speak from only one point of view at a time. But the image is many-sided and many-dimensioned, and yet at the same time imprecise; here again, it is like nature itself.

Alan Watts


Her state of mind, her ecstasy of love, show that something has happened to her. And nothing greater can happen to a human being than that he is forgiven. For forgiveness means reconciliation in spite of estrangement; it means reunion in spite of hostility; it means acceptance of those who are unacceptable; and it means reception of those who are rejected. Forgiveness is unconditional; it is not forgiveness at all.

Paul Tillich

On Seeing
In ancient China before an artist began to paint anything-a tree, for instance-he would sit down in front of it for days, months, years, it didn’t matter how long, until he was the tree. He did not identify himself with the tree but he was the tree. This means that there was no space between him and the tree, no space between the observer and the observed, no experiencer experiencing the beauty, the movement, the shadow, the depth of a leaf, The quality of color. He was totally the tree, and in that state only could he paint.

Freedom From The Known


He Raiseth Up
[Edited Version]
Collaborative statement written with mountain and rural people's input, in an effort to define our being and purpose. 

When people are treated with the utmost care, they learn to feel worthy of reverence; they realize that they have absolute value. In order to establish yourself, you must help others establish themselves. Bridging difference requires some emptying of self-importance.

How we look and gaze upon each other at the onset of every single day is an important exercise and discipline, suspend judgment and comparison. Comparison is a negative form of competition that leads to aggression and separation. Unfortunately, many only see the world through themselves. Our people in spite of having less, they have not lost themselves, in fact they have developed more compassion for all.

Seeing and participating in our shared humanity, understanding differences, interconnecting and prayer – all inspire change - socially encouraging acceptance. This is the healing and redemptive power necessary. Opening our perceptions [minds and sight] and emotions [hearts and soul], to respectfully appreciating each other help unify people, expanding tolerance and diversity, creating a flow of authentic spoken language and visibility, that defeats stigmatization. But many resist... the “all” of one humanity and have lost their hearts, remaining separate in isolated comfort zones.

Stability can only be achieved and maintained by all recognizing mutual equality. 

The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust… to set them among princes and inherit a seat of honor.
1 Samuel 2. 7-8, King James Bible

Many of my friends in Kentucky shared their thoughts, words and feelings in the above collaborative statement.

 Shelby Lee Adams
May 2009

A Viewer's Response

We live in a world where clean, rich, well-spoken, going to the right places and being seen with the right people is valued far beyond anything else. And here, right in front of my eyes are your photos - so obviously a world and a people who have no thoughts of these things. They are untouched and untouchable by those things - not because they aren't attainable to them but because those things aren't them. They know themselves better than we will ever know ourselves. They are defined by Family, Land and Soul not by car, job or friends.
And maybe that's the heart of the matter for me - maybe that's why at first I turned away, I felt embarrassment with the photos - I thought I was embarrassed for them and their lack of. No, I am embarrassed for ME and my lack of. I have lost who I am along the way.

Nandi Boliek

Our society should offer every citizen ample opportunity for individual growth. Only through education can people achieve personal development. Only through personal development will society evolve.

Richard Thurman

"Some will not recognize the truthfulness of my mirror. Let them remember that I am not here to reflect the surface... but must penetrate inside. My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth."

“One eye sees, the other feels…”
 Paul Klee



                ''A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.''

Albert Einstein

             "Buddhahood involves a state of complete awareness that finds blissful expression in a compassion that tirelessly embraces all living beings, manifesting whenever necessary to help them reach their own freedom from suffering."

The Dalai Lama

           "Along with love, compassion is the face of altruism. It is a feeling from deep in the heart that you cannot bear others’ suffering without acting to relieve it. As compassion grows stronger, so does your willingness to commit yourself to the welfare of all beings, even if you have to do it alone. You will be unbiased in your service to all beings, no matter how they respond to you."

The Dala Lama

        "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity."

Pema Chodron 

            "Compassion is a particularly difficult virtue. It demands that we go beyond the limitations of our egotism, insecurity and inherited prejudice."

Karen Armstrong

         "Until mankind can extend the circle of his compassion to include all living things, he will never, himself, know peace."

Albert Schweitzer


Experience has shown me that the greatest inner tranquillity comes from developing love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove our fears and insecurities and gives us strength to face obstacles - it is the ultimate source of success in life.

Dala Lama

         "Why is it that we become more humble as we become more like God? "From within or from behind," Emerson wrote, "A light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all." Compassion is another name for clarity."

Dhu'L-Nun AL-Misri 

Pema Chodron

Compassionate Action

         "The basic ground of compassionate action is the importance of working with rather than struggling against, and what I mean by that is working with your own unwanted, unacceptable stuff, so that when the unacceptable and unwanted appears out there, you relate to it based on having worked with loving-kindness for yourself. Then there is no condescension. This non dualistic approach is true to the heart because it's based on our kinship with each other. We know what to say, because we have experienced closing down, shutting off, being angry, hurt, rebellious, and so forth, and have made a relationship with those things in ourselves."

Pema Chodron

Start Where You Are




“Only when one approaches the work of art nonjudgementally does it begin to reveal the artist’s personality and creativity and their relationship.’’

Donald Kuspit, “The End of Art”


Steiglitz has written, “the most difficult problem in photography is to learn to see. All else is comparatively simple, and one can only learn to see through comparison, through contrast. That is every artist’s great secret.” Kertesz said, “everybody can look, but they don’t necessarily see.” Emmet Gowin , an eminent photographer, has said, “What always interests me is the story behind [pictures]. It’s the going to, as Diane Arbus said, the going to places, the going and stepping into mysteries that you don’t understand.” Gowin has explained, “the challenge of photography is to show the thing photographed so that our feelings are awakened and hidden aspects are revealed.” He feels that “whatever picture an artist makes it is in part a picture of himself — a matter of identity.” George Rodger said that one views what is out there but the real source comes from within you, “from inside your head or your heart.”

Claire Yaffa


A Letter from Kentucky
I am 51 and your work shows a lot of the life I experienced. Shucky beans, I love 'em and tell everyone about them but people don't have a clue what I am talking about. These things are heritage that has to be remembered. Baptism's in the creek... dinner on the ground... the wakes for the deceased in the homes... all that is falling by the wayside. I think our country would be in a lot better shape if we still lived like that. Babies drank fresh cows milk strained through a cloth... I shook milk in a jar to make butter and buttermilk...
People don't have a clue. I hope you do more work... bring back more memories... the newspapers used for wallpaper is how my mom learned to read, my dad taught her after they got married. They didn't have TV or anything-so they'd lay in bed and read the walls.

Please tell me you will do more work.
A Fan
Paris, Kentucky
AUGUST 27,'09

Viewer Response

I owe it to you to thank you for giving me a reason and a vehicle by which I can explore and better understand my own history, my own roots, my own family and children, and even myself.
It's distressing to me that there are people who claim that you exploit the people you understand and accept so fully. I do understand that not everyone can look at these people in the unflinching way that you or I might, and in an effort to make themselves comfortable, question your motives to ease their own discomfort. I find your work honest and real and true. Sometimes it's hard to look at my own parents ... but I'm not gonna stop just because it's hard, occasionally. To do that would be to cast shame on them, and there is no shame there. They worked hard all their lives. They never had much materially. But they accept who they are ... and amazingly, accept everybody else they meet without judgment. They are an uncommon kind, and I still have much to learn from them.
Sarah, Mississippi  May 2010

 Philip talking to Shelby
[Recorded at Philip and Corrine's home in Kentucky, summer 2009]

  " It’s very important, to Mountain people – that they stick together. Because they started when they had nothing, and when they get a little something, they still stick together and help each other along. That’s how that we were raised. 
The way we was raised, we sure didn’t have nothing."

        " You respected us. If mountain people, if they don’t trust you they want let you in."

         “We are a tougher group of people and we can share more.”

         “You through the years, in your line of work, people who don’t trust, they want let you in at all,
 but you through the years, have went-through to these people and they have accepted you and your work 
and if they thought you done anything wrong your work would have stopped a long time ago.”

         “You’ve done it, you have reached what your “continuing” set out to do, You’ve done - what you’ve set out to do. Your not failing, your doing exactly what you do, and theirs’ always going to be people, they don’t understand what your doing and their going to criticize you because of it.”

         “We all are the same, we need to really – to look at this situation right here. We really need to look at life. We are a blessed people, because were able to walk and able to talk, we have the freedom to get out and to work and raise our families and we ought to treat each other equally.”

Philip Zambala 2009
Married to Corrine Childers, over 30 years, raised in Roxanne, KY
We have known each other since 1976.

"However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. When we are sick or very young or very old, we must depend on the support of others. There is no significant division between us and other people, because our basic natures are the same. If we wish to ensure eyeryone's peace and happiness we need to cultivate a healthy respect for the diversity of our peoples and cultures, founded on an understanding of this fundamental sameness of all human beings."

Dalai Lama

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All photographs and text copyrighted - © 1978 - 2017 Shelby Lee Adams, legal action will be taken to represent the photographer, the work taken out of context, subjects and integrity of all photographic and written works, including additional photographers published and authors quoted. Permissions - send e mail request with project descriptions.