I think there are excellent clues to the motivation behind Shelby Lee Adams in his biography. A couple quotes from it:

When a film crew visited his home town, Adams naturally wanted to help, taking them to his meet his grandparents and his uncle so they could film their daily lives. When the media described them as malnourished and poor, his friends and family felt betrayed. This devastated Adams, who felt he had misled the people he so dearly loved -- an experience that had a profound impact on him, leading him to photograph the people of Appalachia.
That Adams returns to the mountains year after year is a testament to his dedication to show their challenging existence while maintaining their dignity.
I can recall from my high school days the campaign that portrayed Appalachia in that negative light. I wonder how many comments in this thread are based upon that portrayal? That's the type of exploitation I was addressing in my comments. It would appear that it had a profound influence on Adams and his life's work.

Same thing happened in my native area in the Depression and Dust Bowl days. Swarms of "Do-Gooders" and "Activists" came in telling everyone how pitifully underprivledged they were. This was highly resented. "The Grapes of Wrath" was NOT considered to be an accurate portrayal.