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The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia (2002)

The meaning of art itself comes into question in this documentary about Shelby Lee Adams' controversial photos of families in Appalachia.


Jennifer Baichwal

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Shelby Lee Adams Shelby Lee Adams ... Himself
Chad Baker Chad Baker ... Himself
Donnie Benton Donnie Benton ... Himself
Burley Childers Burley Childers ... Himself
Homer Childers Homer Childers ... Himself
James Childers James Childers ... Himself
Joseph Childers Joseph Childers ... Himself
Rosalie Desrochers Rosalie Desrochers ... Herself
Roy Childers Roy Childers ... Himself
Debbie Childers Debbie Childers ... Herself
Selina Childers Selina Childers ... Herself
Hort Collins Hort Collins ... Himself
Brandon Cooper Brandon Cooper ... Himself
Johnny Cooper Johnny Cooper ... Himself
William Gorman William Gorman ... Himself


The meaning of art itself comes into question in this documentary about Shelby Lee Adams' controversial photos of families in Appalachia.

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Release Date:

January 2003 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Kentucky, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mercury Films Inc. See more »
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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

After the credits roll a subject of the film is shown commenting to the camera that "sometimes his pictures come out good, and sometimes not so good." See more »


Features Deliverance (1972) See more »

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User Reviews

not bad for what it is
8 August 2011 | by Raoul DukeSee all my reviews

So I watched 2002's "The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia" directed by Jennifer Baichwal. So was it good, I say yes but not great, and actually just barely good. This movie mostly struck me as pretentious people commenting on the validity of photographing hillbillies. In this film we are even given the definition of a hillbilly by a PHD oooooh, I'll let the filmmaker in on a little secret everyone freaking knows what a hillbilly is. This documentary reflects on the relationship between photographer Shelby Lee Adams' and his subjects of thirty some odd years the mountain folk of Appalachia. He has an honest and true regard for these people having come from this breed of people I guess, however I do not share his love of these creatures. Look we all have flaws and we all have strengths, however I think most hillbillies are racist, undereducated, under motivated, drug addicted, often incestuous, cretins. I fear this type of people because any contact I have with this breed of American has reinforced the stereotypes of them, and their portrayal in this documentary did nothing to change that opinion. This movie is very dry and very boring, but it is a valid exercise in the documentary genre and is an interesting subject overall. However, I personally recommend the "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia", if you want to see a documentary on hillbillies. It is more fast paced, has good music, and in general gives a more honest portrayal of what a hillbilly is in my opinion. So watch both, I think it is a good way to compare and contrast two sides of the same coin. if you like concise reviews of interesting films please read my other reviews at http://raouldukeatthemovies.blogspot.com/

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