Thanks everyone, for you thoughtful comments.
When I first came across Shelby Lee Adams work, I was a bit turned off by the highly stylized light, his subjects looking straight at the camera and posed, and all made with a view camera. The light somehow gives all the texture in these people's lives a certain sameness, even though it makes there run down homes look quite extraordinarily beautiful. It becomes about the sufaces, and the technique seems at odds, somehow, with his subject. Having said all that, I admire his effort to make these photographs so differently than we have already seen in the long tradition of documentary photography. I have found my own biasis challenged by studying his work. And, everytime I look at Adam's photos, it brings Gedney's image to mind.
As for Gedney's photograph, I have always been partial to it. It's a lovely image for all the reasons stated above. He was a very deliberate photographer, I think he knew the angle of his lens very well, and he was a very astute observer with his 35mm camera. I'd be surprised if he wasn't very aware of every detail in that kitchen when he made this photograph, even if sub-conciously. His approach to his work strikes me, not so much documentary, but more as a poet or a musician. He travelled, and explored, and really observed people. I think he stayed in touch with the families he got to know in Kentucky, and he lived a fairly solitary life. He was very focused on his work as a photographer.
On a personal note, I took some classes with him in college. He was one of the best printers I have ever learned from, and he had us making wonderful prints by the end of the semester. This photograh of his, he said, was a pain in the neck to print with a lot of burning and dodging, and it was included "Family of Man" exhibit way back when. He sold a number of prints of it! Just his luck... his most popular photograph would be one that was hard to print!!
The website with his work is more archive than a portfolio. It's too bad, I would love to see a book of his work, maybe with a bit of editing, and organizing, as I really enjoy perusing through his photos from time to time.