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Shelby Lee Adams collection

Identifier: AG 257

Scope and Contents

The Shelby Lee Adams Collection consists of photographic materials related to the artist’s time with residents of Kentucky’s isolated Appalachian mountain region. Including several published books of his work, journals and magazines interview Adams regarding his approach with people photographed. 4x5 polaroids are included as well as a VHS tape of a sermon that Adams attended and photographed labeled Spring ’87 Wayne’s Church. Gallery brochures from his exhibit In Pursuit of the Human Spirit round out the collection.

Series one, publications and printed materials,contains publications of Adams’ work by way of four books: Appalachian Legacy, Appalachian Lives, Appalachian Portraits, and Salt & Truth. Journals containing his work are Center Quarterly and Close to Home. SouthBound and Photographers, Writers, and the American Scene are published books including work by Shelby Lee Adams. B&W Magazine also featured an article and cover by Adams.

Series two, photographic materials,contains 17 polaroids, set into 2 groups of 4x5 formatted portraits in black and white.

Series three, audiovisual materials,contains a VHS tape of a sermon attended by Adams, who was present to photograph the use of snake-handling.

Additional materials to be expected.


  • 1987-2018


Language of Materials

Material in English

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Born in Hazard, Kentucky in 1950, Shelby Lee Adams is no stranger to the rural inhabitants that reside in the mountains of the Appalachian region. Residents often misrepresented by the media and misunderstood by outsiders are labeled as poverty-stricken and left in isolation. Yet, as a trusted confidant, who visits nearly every summer, Adams became a friend, showing the Appalachian people in deeper terms. Photographing portraits, Adams typically processes in black and white, sharing an intimate view of individuals who claim to be rich in culture and land. Noteworthy to mention, Adams’ plan for proceeds from reproduction and licensing of work is to be donated to the families of those he photographed over 40 years.


1 Linear Foot

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Photographic materials, including polaroids, published books and magazine features, along with audiovisual recordings created by photographer Shelby Lee Adams (b. 1950). Mostly consisting of subjects from his native state of Kentucky, in rural isolated hollows tucked in the mountain terrain, Adams documents the people often ignored by the majority of society with solemn, starkly lit, yet intimate portraits. Books include those published of Lee’s work: Appalachian Portraits, Appalachian Legacy, Appalachian Lives, and Salt & Truth. A magazine featuring Shelby Lee Adams includes: Black & White Magazine. Other publications, articles and journals include: Center Quarterly, Close to Home, SouthBound, Photographers, Writers, and the American Scene, as well as In Pursuit of the Human Spirit, an exhibit brochure. This collection is active and additional materials are expected.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Publications and printed materials
  2. Series 2: Photographic materials
  3. Series 3: Audiovisual materials

Custodial History

This collection was created by Shelby Lee Adams as early as 1983, and negotiated by him to be housed at the Center for Creative Photography. The first set of materials were received in 2019. The collection is active.


More materials to follow.

Separated Materials

One copy of each of Shelby Lee Adams’ books Appalachian Legacy, Appalachian Lives, Appalachian Portraits, and Salt & Truth are available for viewing in the Center for Creative Photography Library located in the Volkerding Study Center.

Processing Information

Processing of first acquisition and creation of finding aid by Melissa Sanson, 2019.

Shelby Lee Adams Collection 1987-2018
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 2020
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid encoded in English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States