Today we’d like to introduce you to Adam Smith.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I attended the University of Mississippi for undergrad in 1993. I was not much of a photographer at that time, but was interested in the art. At Ole Miss, I enrolled in a beginning photography course taught by Tom Rankin. (now Executive Director of Documentary Studies at Duke University).
Growing up in Macon, GA, I had always been very interested in music. While attending Ole Miss around 1996, I heard of a place called Junior Kimbrough’s Juke Joint in North Mississippi. Junior’s was only open on Sunday nights. A friend took me their once and it took as several times passing it by to finally find it.
Junior Kimbrough’s changed my life. Upon entering and realizing that I was the only white kid in there having a few beers taking the small shack in, I started to experience this force which is known as the North Mississippi Hillcountry Blues. Junior’s was a 1-room shack with a pool table in the middle with little enclaves of beer drinkers moving in the shadows with a jukebox in the back. Junior always sat in the corner holding his cane and observing the crowd almost like a king until he decided he wanted to play.
Once Junior did play that very night, my life changed. His music was dark, raw and intricate all in one. People gathered on the floor and started moving pushed up together sweating and screaming. The energy in the room literally sent chills up my entire body. It is indescribable. I came to tears. I knew right there and then that if I could ever capture that energy in the room, that feeling that that is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I will never forget that night.
The late southern author Larry Brown describes it best:
The people are moving together on the floor now, legs and hips and feet and hands moving and no two of them alike, everybody doing what the music makes them feel. A Big packed herd. The music grows and grows and becomes more intricate and gains power and weight until it’s screaming to be let out of the room and onto the sidewalk and up the street. It’s gathering centrifugal force. In the dark, any trouble you have can fade while you just listen to the music and move your feet, knowing it’ll take the hurt away, cure whatever ails you. Tomorrow ain’t come yet. — Larry Brown: Author of DirtyWork, Joe, Big Bad Love, Facing the Music and On Fire.
From that night on, I returned to Juniors many times making friendships with the musicians that I still have today. I was able to work with Junior, R.L. Burnside and several others from that place (the rest of my story can be gleaned from my bio that I have included on another page).
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Trying to make a living in the photography business with an emphasis in music is not an easy road by any means. Times have been extremely trying at points along the way. It will make you second guess your life choice a lot. I have been lucky enough though to have really amazing opportunities to come along that keeps me going down this path. These opportunities keep me pointed in the right direction. They let me know that people value my eye and my work. These opportunities push me not to give up, to stay the course.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Adam Smith graduated from the University of Mississippi 1999 with a degree in business and a passion for photography. Time spent in Mississippi provided Smith with unique opportunities to document the landscape and music of the state, most notably the Delta Blues and the indelible culture it’s left in its wake. This fertile environment enabled Smith to photograph and bare witness to several blues legends, Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside and Model T Ford to rattle off a few brow raisers. His images ultimately captured the interest of world renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz who needed assistance on a shoot in the Mississippi Delta. Smith was personally requested for his knowledge of the region and his relationships with the local bluesmen and the region’s famous juke joints. Smith’s pleasure doubled when asked to assist for Leibovitz yet again in 2010, featuring actress Gabourey Sidibe from the feature film “Precious” for a promotional spread in Vanity Fair Magazine.
Smith relocated to Atlanta where he managed the Department of Photography at the Atlanta College of Art while also pursuing a career in freelance photography. This brought the honor of working with country music legend, Marty Stuart, to shoot for his most recent Grammy nominated album, Ghost Train, in Nashville’s famed RCA/Victor studio B. The album went on to win a Grammy. In 2008, Smith was selected Photographer of the Year by the 11th Hour in Macon, GA. His work has appeared in galleries in Oxford, Mississippi, Atlanta, Georgia and Macon, Georgia. His photographs have been chosen for permanent display at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Smith’s “I Fell Down On My Knees” image was chosen to be used on Alan Greenberg’s, Robert Johnson book, Love In Vain in 2012. The book’s foreword penned by Martin Scorsese. Another image of his appears on the album cover of Junior Kimbrough’s stellar Meet Me In The City record.
Smith is a true artist behind the lens. An eye for capturing the note before it’s left the instrument, action shots freezing time for that one image that captures the sweat, smoke, light, smell and raw energy of the moment– the epitome being an image that provokes emotion sans sound, smell or even presence. Smith’s polished natural talent has earned him a featured interview and article at No Depression and a spot on the radio show, “Tales From the South: The Tin Roof Series” ,out of Little Rock, Arkansas later picked up by NPR and syndicated. Smith’s book, Mornin’ Ain’t Come Yet: A Look into the Music and Landscape of the Deep South will feature a thorough look into his photography career that has spanned more than 15 years with undoubtedly many more to go.
What were you like growing up?
I grew up in Macon, GA. I attended high school there and played baseball and football. I enjoyed sports and I always enjoyed music. I had amazing parents, my late father Cathey Alexander Smith owned and operated an architectural woodworking mill in Macon that was opened in 1883. It still is running today. He was always rather artistic himself. I probably gleaned more than I realize from him growing up. To my older brothers, Alex and Brian were good brothers, sometimes a little hard on me, just like all older brothers I imagine.
My mother, Bonnie Smith was a hard working extremely smart woman, who I still look up to today. Both my mother and my father were extremely supportive of my work and pushed me at times to continue down this road throughout college and after. I think they saw my ability and small things that I had accomplished. I would like to think they knew it was not going to be easy but still knew I had a gift to pursue this art.
- Fine Art Prints range from $300 to $1000
- Shoots for half and full days available upon request. Usually range from $800 to $2500
- Website: www.AdamSmithPhotography.com
- Phone: (404)593-6388
- Email: Adam@AdamSmithPhotography.com
©2018 Adam Smith Photography