Mark Adams is a multimedia artist and visual storyteller working with themes related to identity, history, and community transformation. He studied cultural anthropology, biology and journalism at the University of Georgia and the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Beginning his career as a newspaper photojournalist, Adams documented daily life in communities around the world, including a year in the life of family farmers, the desegregation of schools in South Carolina, and the aftermath of 9/11. He has photographed notable events such as the Centennial Olympic Games, Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and world luminaries including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
His work has appeared in the Anchorage Daily News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, The New York Times, St. Petersburg Times, Sports Illustrated, The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News, Time magazine and USA Today, among others. Adams has received numerous awards for his documentary photography from organizations such as Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Association, and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.
In 2003, Adams co-created LaCour, which was named in 2008 as one of the world’s top ten photography studios by American Photo Magazine.
In 2012, Adams began collaborating with EMMY® award-winning filmmaker Alan Spearman. Their film, As I Am, was named one of the top videos of 2012 on Vimeo, aired on the PBS series Independent Lens. and was nominated for a 2013 national EMMY® Award for new approaches to documentary filmmaking. The film screened at the Obama White House in 2015 as part of a special program for My Brother’s Keeper and the Arts.
In April 2013, Adams co-founded Spearman + Adams studio. In 2014 he practiced the art of mindfulness with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and the monastics of Plum Village, France during a four month artist-in-residency.
S + A recently completed Me and the Light, a short film and education initiative featuring dance phenomenon Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, about the power of art to transform oneself and one’s community. Me and the Light features new music by Paul Taylor, Drumma Boy, Valerie June and Kevo Muney. A sneak peek of the film launched the Justice Forum of the REACH at Kennedy Center in 2019.
Adams, along with Spearman, Amanda Lucidon and Sister Peace, co-founded Grounded, an initiative of collaborative artists creating immersive experiences, informed by deep community engagement, that become pathways for positive transformation.
Our films have created the foundation for community education and empowerment initiatives developed by Grounded. Our initial arts + mindfulness pilot initiative reduced violence in the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center by 50% during the summer of 2018. Since 2020, over 1,000 students at East High School and Crosstown High School in Memphis, TN have deeply engaged with a 9-week education initiative anchored by Me and the Light which has inspired students to create thousands of artistic responses to important issues in their community.
Read about our Grounded Fellows program and the work they’re doing to create peace in their community.