Born in Minneapolis, 1969; lives and works in the Twin Cities
Silicon Valley poses something of a photographic problem. Documenting its physical topography is one thing, but visually describing its culture is another entirely. How do you represent what makes this nerve center of technological innovation tick? In other words, how do you photograph something you can't see? It was precisely this indescribability that drew photographer Alec Soth to the area. As he summarized the challenge: "Whether it is for gold or citrus or celebrity, California has always attracted dreamers and prospectors. What is so fascinating about the most recent rush in Silicon Valley is that the harvest is invisible — the gold is in the cloud."
We knew Soth, a keen observer with a gift for seeing the poetry and humor of the everyday, was up to the task. For this commission he photographed the campuses, cubicles, and data centers of the technology giants whose names are synonymous with the region: Google, Hewlett-Packard, and Facebook, among others. He also explored less celebrated locations: computer repair stores, meet-ups, and local watering holes. The portrait of the valley he produced is as unexpected as it is intriguing, upending stereotypes and telling stories that have largely escaped the traditional Silicon Valley narratives of success and progress. Ranging in tone from unabashedly romantic to laugh-out-loud comical, these works pose the question: how do our collective cultural fantasies about Silicon Valley match up with life as it is actually lived here? The photographs are also deliberately somewhat inscrutable. As Soth writes, "I wanted to strip the pictures of color and shadow and depict the whiteboard of possibility this place represents."
Curator of Photography
Alec Soth on photographing "the cloud" in Silicon Valley
Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with the City of Los Altos. The lead sponsor of this exhibition is Passerelle Investment Company.
Major support is provided by SFMOMA's Collectors Forum. Generous support is provided by the Bay Area Contemporary Arts Exhibition Fund, founded by Agnes Cowles Bourne; and Brit and Dave Morin. Jim Breyer, Randi and Bob Fisher, Patricia W. Fitzpatrick, Adriane Iann and Christian Stolz, Nion T. McEvoy, and Thomas W. Weisel and Janet Barnes are sponsors of the exhibition. Additional support is provided by the Graue Family Foundation, Alka and Ravin Agrawal, The Black Dog Private Foundation, Phyllis and Bill Draper, Concepción and Irwin Federman, Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue, Christopher and Michele Meany, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and the Los Altos Community Foundation.