True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia (2002)

Genres - Culture & Society, Visual Arts  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Graphic & Applied Arts, Social History  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States  |  
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Synopsis by Mark Deming

Like many photographers, Shelby Lee Adams has a favored subject, and in his case he prefers to turn the lens of his camera on the poor Appalachian families of Eastern Kentucky. As a fellow Kentuckian, the Appalachians are an area and a people Adams knows well, but while his subjects usually live in devastating poverty, Adams was the son of a wealthy and privileged family, and as his work began to attract a worldwide audience, many began to question if Adams was attempting an honest portrayal of lives lived under near-tragic circumstances, or if the photographer was exploiting the naivete and subjects and playing on stereotypes of the poor in the Deep South. The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia is a documentary which offers an in-depth look at Adams and his work, as well as the people he documents and the perspectives of other photographers. The True Meaning Of Pictures was directed by Jennifer Baichwal, who previously helmed the acclaimed documentary Let it Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles.



Appalachia, career-retrospective, controversy, family, hillbilly, photographer, photography, poverty, provocative, rurality