Shelby Lee Adams: Environmental Portraiture

Spring 2013

Photo by Linda Cicero


Photo by Shelby Lee Adams


Photo by Anne Connor


Photo by Elli Trier

“Seeing, connecting, and nurturing love while recalling and sharing the more difficult times requires a balanced perspective. It can be tender, or tough and thorny, but all parts are necessary to integrate visually and intellectually.” —Shelby Lee Adams, Salt and Truth (2011)

We are pleased to report the success of Shelby Lee Adams’s environmental portraiture workshop, held on July 13 and 14, 2013. The course exposed students to the varying psychological and technical faculties of portraiture through the study of images and an on-location shoot in New York’s Tompkins Square Park. The resulting photographs stand as testament to the tenacious and astute observations made by this group of students over the course of the workshop.

From the students:

“This workshop exceeded my expectations. I had questions answered that I didn’t even know I had. . . . I will go home with many things to practice and dissect.”


“I never shot with studio lighting because I thought it would be too difficult. The workshop helped to ease that fear, and now I feel confident.”


From Adams:

“Tompkins Square Park was great and we had good weather. People were willing to pose for photos and a diverse range of people were present. The quality of the students was good, with at least three professional photographers, an economics professor, a published author of architecture books, a nationally recognized documentary filmmaker, an Appalachian photographer from West Virginia, and two people who flew in from Madison, Wisconsin. All eleven participated to the end.”


Shelby Lee Adams was born in Hazard, Kentucky, in 1950, and educated at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Massachusetts College of Art. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2010 and is the author of four photography books:  Appalachian Portraits (1993), Appalachian Legacy (1998), Appalachian Lives (2003), and Salt and Truth (2011). His work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Polaroid Corporation, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, and Peter S. Reed Foundation. His photographs are in over sixty national and international collections, including the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. His work has appeared in such publications as Aperture, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Times, Mother Jones, and Black and White magazine. He divides his time between the Berkshire Mountains and eastern Kentucky.



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