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From the Heads of the Hollers - Special Edition 8x10

From the Heads of the Hollers - Special Edition 8x10

by Shelby Lee Adams

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Every summer for over 40 years, Shelby Lee Adams travelled to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky to take photographs. Now in his 70s, Adams has returned to his archive of unpublished images taken between 1974 and 2010. His aim was to print those which may have been previously overlooked, concerned that if he did not print them in his lifetime, the photographs would never be made. Nearly 90 of these unpublished photographs are included in his new book From the Heads of the Hollers — portraying the culture and people of his native land.

A donation of 10% of proceeds from sale of the book (after pre-orders have finished) purchased directly from will be donated to Team Kentucky Flood Relief Fund.

More about this book

Adams’ intention when he first began to take pictures had been to ‘photograph what I knew’. His annual summer trips allowed him to renew and relive his childhood in these mountains. He began by taking photographs of his grandparents, uncles and aunts, neighbours and friends. He then asked for introductions when he brought back photographs to distribute to those whose portraits he had taken. Introductions led to further introductions and over the course of four decades he continued to work in this manner, photographing three, four or sometimes even five generations of the same families.

Often, when Adams got to know someone, he would photograph them on return visits, sometimes a couple of years apart, sometimes a decade. Each person is depicted as they chose and felt most comfortable — some sit whilst other stand, some are outside their homes whilst others prefer to be photographed inside, revealing the details of their everyday lives. Some photographs show whole families, siblings, friends or lone figures but the portraits are united by the subject’s unflinching gaze towards Adams and his camera.

The publication of the book will coincide with the exhibition of Adams’ work at Paul Paletti Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky from 5 October - 29 December 2023 as part of the Louisville Photo Biennial.

Available prints:

Print 1 (top) Edition of 14
Hardshell Caney Creek, [image made photographing through plexi-glass when raining], 2007

Print 2 Edition of 16
Merle, Hindman, 1985

About special editions

Please note, Special Editions are not processed through our warehouse but individually condition checked and packaged by hand to avoid any damage. As a result, please allow extra time for your Special Edition to arrive. We will keep you updated on the progress of your order and we can be contacted on with any queries.

Published August 2023
280 x 360 mm
176pp, 89 images
Hardback, clothbound cover
ISBN 978-1-915423-04-7

Print 1: edition of 14. Title: Hardshell Caney Creek, [image made photographing through plexi-glass when raining], 2007
Print 2: edition of 16. Title: Merle, Hindman, 1985

Each signed book comes with one handprinted 8 x 10″ silver gelatin print, signed only (verso and recto) by Shelby Lee Adams.

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  • Born in Hazard, Kentucky (1950) and later living with his grandparents in Hot Spot, Shelby Lee Adams discovered photography and the arts in high school. He studied at Cleveland Institute of Art, where in his sophomore year he was exposed to the photographs of the Farm Security Administration, and inspired to make the photographs for which he is best known. Adams has been the recipient of a survey grant and photography fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1978, 1992), an artist support grant from the Polaroid Corporation (1989-92), and the recipient of a Guggenheim photography Fellowship. His photographs are held in the permanent collections of museums, including MoMA and Whitney.

  • ‘I ask folks to look into the camera lens and find their own reflection while thinking about significant events in their lives that are important to them. Life experiences for all of us vary greatly and are imprinted in our core being and that bears through, influencing our appearances. When a photographer is connected to his subjects, pretences and masks fall away, bringing forward a more unrestrained and engaging portrait.’

    ‘Years ago, some of my subjects told me they did not want to have their pictures placed in a book alongside their community’s "well-to-do," the very ones who "put us down and make fun of us." I listened to them. They are sensitive to this issue. I heard their stories and have gained their trust.

    After seeing my first book, it was clear that the holler folks understood my vision, and since then they have always helped me to find more of the grounded and authentic culture that defines them, even as it disappears. So, by word of mouth, I’ve created a collective portrait of our holler people that many have never seen before.’

    - Shelby Lee Adams