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Seeing Silicon Valley

Life inside a Fraying America

Photographs and Stories by Mary Beth Meehan and Essay by Fred Turner
Acclaimed photographer Mary Beth Meehan and Silicon Valley culture expert Fred Turner join forces to give us an unseen view of the heart of the tech world.

It’s hard to imagine a place more central to American mythology today than Silicon Valley. To outsiders, the region glitters with the promise of extraordinary wealth and innovation. But behind this image lies another Silicon Valley, one segregated by race, class, and nationality in complex and contradictory ways. Its beautiful landscape lies atop underground streams of pollutants left behind by decades of technological innovation, and while its billionaires live in compounds, surrounded by redwood trees and security fences, its service workers live in their cars.

With arresting photography and intimate stories, Seeing Silicon Valley makes this hidden world visible. Instead of young entrepreneurs striving for efficiency in minimalist corporate campuses, we see portraits of struggle—families displaced by an impossible real estate market, workers striving for a living wage, and communities harmed by environmental degradation. If the fate of Silicon Valley is the fate of America—as so many of its boosters claim—then this book gives us an unvarnished look into the future.

112 pages | 67 color plates | 10 x 7 | © 2021

Art: Photography

Culture Studies

Media Studies

Sociology: General Sociology, Occupations, Professions, Work

Reviews

"[Seeing Silicon Valley] reveal[s], if not the future I thought I would find, a critical part of Silicon Valley that most people never look for or think about, let alone see. . . . Each photograph tells a story, and it's rarely the one you might imagine. . . . Insistently draw[s] the reader’s focus to how Silicon Valley's success and image are based on the outright elision of other bodies, often brown or black, or immigrant. . . . The people who cover 'tech'—whatever that term even means these days—too often portray Silicon Valley as a place apart from America. But, as Seeing Silicon Valley . . . reveal[s], with its racism, casual misogyny, economic inequality, and environmental devastation concentrated among poor communities, Silicon Valley is America. . . . [The book] point[s] to the heart of what makes the region run: people, many of them hidden or invisible. Making them visible is a start to creating a more praiseworthy place."

Los Angeles Review of Books

"In uber-rich Silicon Valley, [Meehan's] camera captures those struggling to survive."

Washington Post

"Brevity, succinctness, and personal focus are among the key strengths of this powerful and important book, an account that fans out into other developing narratives about the decline of California as America's paradise, social media's mendacity and lack of civic responsibility, and the super-charged rise of economic injustice and insecurity. It is likely to attract a lot of attention, discussion, and controversy. . . . The images are saturated in California sunlight and color and classically composed, suggesting the long heritage of Western portraiture. The various poverties they encompass do not immediately strike the eye, as [Walker] Evans' images do. The pain lurks below. . . . Unflinching."

Arts Fuse

“It is a Silicon Valley rarely described and never shown that photographer Mary Beth Meehan sought to document. . . . Without descending into pathos, she reveals the striking contrasts between the world of start-ups and that in which their employees live. . . . But underneath, Meehan also depicts another, more subtle dissonance—between the way Silicon Valley sees itself, and the way it really is.”

Le Monde

"Meehan focuses her lens on the forgotten faces behind the myths and the marketing. . . . From Brockton to Providence, from small-town Georgia to Silicon Valley, photographer Mary Beth Meehan is challenging communities to see themselves in new ways, spurring discussions about race and inequality, the economy and the environment."

Boston Globe

"Seeing Silicon Valley spotlights people lost in the shadows of the tech capital. . . . Through their collection of around 30 portraits and mini-narratives of everyday people, Meehan and Turner take us through the unique lives of a swath of the region's residents who each struggle, in their own ways, to feel a sense of stability."

San Francisco Chronicle

"Facebook, Google and hundreds of other companies that drive our digital lives call Silicon Valley home, but so do people who find it almost impossible to make ends meet, even if they are key to keeping billion-dollar industries running. In a new book, photographer Mary Beth Meehan presents a series of portraits that show another side of the people who power the world’s tech capital."

Big Issue

"Meehan's photos dissolve distances between people. . . . [This] is a book of images that speaks to the human toll exacted by the relentless economy."

Christian Science Monitor

"Powerful."

Yahoo! Finance

"Meehan juxtaposes glimpses of the region's humanity with an unflinching view of the tech industry's unceasing ambition. . . . She asks readers to consider the costs of allowing the unrestricted pursuit of innovation to become ingrained in our society."

Stanford Magazine

"For more than seven decades, business leaders, politicians, and would-be entrepreneurs have tried to unravel the secrets of Silicon Valley. In just over one hundred powerful, haunting pages, Meehan and Turner have captured a side of the valley rarely seen: the deeply inequitable landscape of contingent and disproportionately foreign-born labor that makes its high-tech magic possible. Humane, insightful, and deeply compelling, this book tells the story of Silicon Valley in a completely new and utterly magnetic way."

Margaret O'Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

"Meehan’s photographs provide a compelling cross section of peoples and places in the valley, featuring hidden and untold stories. The photographs are excellent, the selection is clever and balanced, and the accompanying texts are well written and engaging."

Phillip Prodger, Yale University

Table of Contents

The Valley on the Hill     Fred Turner
Photographs and Stories     Mary Beth Meehan
 
Cristobal
Ravi and Gouthami
Victor
Warren
Justyna
Teresa
Mary
Diane
Abraham and Brenda
Ariana and Elijah
Mark
Imelda
Richard
Leslie
Geraldine
Jolea
Melissa and Steve
Jon
Gee and Virginia
Branton and Shirley
Konstance
Aurora
Erfan
Ted
Elisa and Family
Elizabeth
 
Afterword
Acknowledgments

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