Sunday, March 4, 2007

Writings About Vision, Stengers Cafe, Cinti. OH, Scotland, Cario and Jerusalem

         “The world is our home. It is also the home of many, many other children, some of whom live in far-away lands. They are our world brothers and sisters.”
                                                               —James Agee
                                                               Cotton Tenants


Amanda Gail, 2004
[Scanned original 4x5 Polaroid]

            “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse”.

                                                                                                Janet Malcolm
                                                                                    “The Journalist and the Murderer”

         I believe portraiture can communicate experiences, feelings and emotions not consciously recognized by the subject or viewer, yet transferred to you when studying the photograph, you may simultaneously not be aware of yourself absorbing these feelings and experiences, because they are abstract and unconscious.  There is no evasiveness of truth here; rather an unspoken more primal communication, a real transference.

                                                                        Shelby Lee Adams


Hooterville at Dusk, 1997

Excerpt - Francis Bacon Review    Time Magazine – May 2009

         How rare it is to see contemporary art that attempts, much less achieves, what used to be called a tragic dimension. Irony you can find in any gallery these days, as well as low comedy, puerile cool and enigma. But in a time that has its share of suffering, where is the art that tries to strike an equivalent note? What we have - almost no language for any more.

                                                               Richard Lacayo

Bradley Shell, [age 86] Fire-handler, 1986
Authentic Fire-handler



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


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

Douglas Harding


David Levi Strauss

         The truth is, photography can only do a couple of things really well. It can make visible the tracery of a relation, beginning with the relation between the photographer and his or her subject, and it can reflect on death. Neither of these effects is automatic, by any means, but it is possible. One would think that, out of the millions of photographs that have been made between people over the last 165 years, it would have happened more often, but in fact it is exceedingly rare.
         I guess that’s because real portraits enact a contradiction: that each human being is unique and, at the same time, alike. There is no such thing as a "typical person." People are very different, one from another. But when you get down below the surface, to the skull, we’re ultimately the same.

David Levi Strauss from writing on Robert Bergman.
The Brooklyn Rail

Stenger's Cafe
Cinti. Ohio

Window at Stenger's, 1979

Old Couple at Stenger's Cafe, 1979
Cinti. Ohio

Tiny, 1979
[Stenger's Cafe Series]

Carrie, 1979

Roberta, 1980
[Stenger's Cafe Series]


         In a word, the believer is continuous, to his consciousness, at any rate. With a wider self from which saving experiences flow in. Those who have such experiences distinctly enough and often enough to live in the light of them remain quite unmoved by criticism, from whatever quarter it may come. They have had their vision and they know—that we inhabit an invisible spiritual environment from which help comes, our soul being mysteriously one with a larger soul whose instruments we are.

William James




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

Kizzie by Flowerpots, '95


“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”

Scotland 2004

Megan and the Wee-Wee Lamb, 2004

Bagpiper, 2013

Scottish Musician, 2004

Old Couple in Scotland, 2004




Middle East 1978

Jerusalem Art School Interior, 1978

Arab Judge, Old City of Jerusalem, '78

Newspaper Seller, Zfat, Israel, '78

Fisherman, Israel, '78

Shoe Maker, Jerusalem, 1978

Stick Fighter, Beit Shean, Israel, 1978

Three Egyptian Women, Cario, 1978
[Dressed for Funeral]

Egyptian Woman in Cario, 1978
[Kodachrome Transfer to digital, made 2016]

Bedouin Woman in Market, Cario, 1978

On one of the Pyramids of Gisa, Cario, '78
[Shelby with guide]

        "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy."

Richard Grinker

"My people have always been those trapped in a corner. I can come to them with a voice they do not possess..."

William Eugene Smith

Grimes Grocery, 1989
Scuddy, Kentucky

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All photographs and text copyrighted - © 1978 - 2012 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.