Starting out as a student of architecture at the University of Kentucky, Adams became engrossed by photography two and a half years later in the spring of 1998. “I had gotten a camera the Christmas before, so when I took a semester off of architecture I took one [photography] class and really enjoyed it,” said Adams. Adams’ growing interest was then accelerated into a career-launch, after attending a seminar on American fine art photographer Duane Michals. Inspired by Michals’ work, Adams moved to New York City on September 11, 2000 to professionally pursue photography.
At first assisting commercial and fine art photographers in the city, including, serendipitously enough, Michals himself, Adams’ premiered his first solo exhibition, New York at Dawn, at the Greenwich House Music School in the West Village the spring of 2011. With the coincidence of the September 11 2001 attacks and his one year anniversary of moving to New York, Adams felt compelled to develop his first photo book. “The first photo sequentially is September 11th,” said Adams describing the moment that first inspired him to create American Witnessed. “I took that from a rooftop where I was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. When that happened the only thing I could think to do was grab my camera and take a picture.”
True to its name, American Witnessed, is Adams visual account of how all walks of life–from rural Kentucky to metropolitan New York City– were affected by cultural shift subsequent to the events of 9/11. Capturing the national divide, Adams summarizes, “My approach is knowing these two very different worlds, which sometimes seem irreconcilable.” During a six-week cross-country road trip last spring, he traveled ten thousand miles across twenty-six states. Following the Erie Canal up to Buffalo, NY, stopping in cities along the Great Lakes, Saint Paul, Minnesota and eventually coming upon Williston, North Dakota, where Adams felt especially moved to reach for his camera to document the unconventional lives of oil rig workers.“I would try to spend every evening in either bars or diners and I would talk to the locals,” said Adams of his documentary photo series. “I was sitting either at the bar or the diner counters so I could talk to the bartenders, waitresses and the people next to me and just try to get a sense of what life was like in these places.”
From there, Adams gallivanted to Portland, Oregon and then cut down to Houston, Texas for Houston FotoFest, where his wife joined him. Together they next traveled to New Orleans and continued to follow the Mississippi River up to St. Louis, making stops in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Their trip transformed into a kind of tour of American music, visiting legendary music venues, such as Graceland, Sun Studio and Blueberry Hill in Saint Louis, Missouri, and even met rock-‘n-roll pioneer Chuck Berry.
Adams started a Kickstarter campaign last month hoping to raise $14,000 in order to publish America: Witnessed. The deadline is April 22.