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The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia

Directed by Jennifer Baichwal
Canada, 2002 (documentary, 75 minutes, colour, English)

Film Description:
"For over 30 years, the controversial Shelby Lee Adams has been photographing the mountain people living in a rural region of eastern Kentucky where he grew up. Many question his work and methods, and his grim narratives have been denounced as a meeting of Diane Arbus's lust for the macabre and Walker Evans's hard-times realism. Critics declare that Adams's black-and-white images exploit and betray the culture he claims to know and love so well by portraying Appalachia as one big horror show. [...] Through interviews, photos and Adams's archival videos, we see how he orchestrates the theatrical quality of his images; we realize that his attraction to what he calls environmental portraits comes from his identification with the suffering and pain of the human condition. His intent is not to idealize or romanticize the people he photographs—in his view, they accept themselves for who they are."
-- Stacey Donen (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Produced by: Nicholas de Pencier, Jennifer Baichwal
Participants: Shelby Lee Adams, The Childers Family, The Napier Family, Rachel & Wayne Riddle, Hort Collins, Dwight Billings, A.D. Coleman, Vicki Goldberg, Wendy Ewald, Mary Ellen Mark
Cinematography: Nicholas de Pencier
Film Editing: David Wharnsby
Production Company: Mercury Films Inc.

Notes about The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia


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