/14 Portraits

Shelby Lee Adams

Mountain Portraits

As Krishnamurti taught, the observer is the observed; when that is found, there is no longer conflict between the viewer and the image. As the Gnostic Jesus said, “The kingdom is within you and it is without you. If you do not know yourself, then you are in poverty and you are poverty.” Our original mountain settlers came from a proud and independent spirit; made up of diverse peoples and they never considered themselves living in poverty. My books have become valued keepsakes in the homes of many participants over generations. We know each others backgrounds and we exchange and embrace confidences as all families do. The people photographed confirm, this culture values blood kinships and friendship, towering significantly over materialistic concerns.

It has been my commitment, to photograph the many diverse peoples from back home, always returning to the source of my life, including some who’s appearance may make others flinch; to value and bring forward a more all-inclusive humanity, to understand the complexity we each carry within ourselves, and our reactions one to another. My objective is to communicate more from the perceptions of a family member, to that kindred part in each of us, that all might experience — seeing without judging. Exploring the unknown side of any family, culture, or society leaves one open to another’s scrutiny. Within that vulnerability strength arises. People, who are overlooked, tell me they feel displaced; it is the dispossessed I turn my attention to here. My photography is about seeing ourselves at home more honestly, as well as challenging some of society’s habitual stereotypes. Total acceptance of those who are different is essential to break apart existing boundaries of social isolation, distancing and rigidity, to find integration.

”We Are Still One People,” 2013