His works have also been published in two volumes. The photography of Shelby Lee Adams presents people in their normal lives and environment capturing their way of life. Adams has captured people in their families showing the importance of family. The photography of Shelby Lee Adams has captured a representational and hegemonic way of thinking about the Appalachian community. For instance, the photographs reveal information about poverty, family life and illiteracy.
Most of Adams’ photography shows the subjects in their real world situations enjoying the attention from the camera. The manner in which Adams captures his subjects reveals a lot about them. He has captured the social life of his subjects in a clear manner.
Adams’ pictures promote a hegemonic way of thinking about poverty in Appalachian society. The photographs present subjects and families that seem to be in consensus with their poor conditions. His pictures show large extended families that live in primitive conditions especially in rural places. For example, the picture that shows the Napier family in 1989 show two old people with three other young adults.
The picture clearly shows that the Napier family is poor. The look of their dresses reveals that there are not rich families. For example, one of the sons, standing next to the father, on the left side of the photo has no shirt. He has a pair of trousers that is dirty and has sticky substances at the knees. The wall where they are standing is old with worn out wood pieces. The viewer cannot tell whether the photo was taken in the house or outside judging by the poor conditions around the subjects. The faces of these people show a smile clearly meant for the camera moment. These photos present the sad picture of the Appalachian community from the 1950s to the 1990s. They show the poverty and dilapidated conditions that the Appalachian people lived in and their sufferings. The pictures show the