My first camera was a Kodak 104 Instmatic given to me by my father. I believe the original price was 15 dollars. It shot 126-cartridge film and had an attachment on top for a marvelous little device called a flash cube. It wasn’t much more than an updated Brownie but I thought it was wonderful and I used it faithfully for years. The camera was lost in the vicissitudes of life but the images remain. Photos of summer camp, long ago family vacations to Yosemite, childhood friends and beloved pets. So many wonderful memories come flooding back as I gaze upon those pictures.
In middle school I took up an early 1960’s vintage Minolta rangefinder and along with my friend Craig Elevitch I learned how to develop negatives and how to create my own prints. Craig and I frequented a community darkroom in Palo Alto. This was years before the digital revolution. I imagine young people today have never heard of darkrooms community or otherwise. That’s lamentable, seeing a print come to life in a pan of developing fluid is a magical experience. However capturing a digital image and posting it to a website so that it’s instantly available to a potential audience of millions it a far greater magic. It’s Silicon Valley wizardry, power the likes of which I never imagined possible as a boy.
Growing up in the shadow of Stanford University, surrounded by so many talented people and in a society obsessed with innovation and success it’s easy to question your own abilities. It’s easy to experience self-doubt. Three years ago I created Humans of Silicon Valley inspired in equal parts by Humans of New York and by Morgan Spurlock’s Failure Club. Humans of New York is self explanatory. For those unfamiliar with the term a Failure Project is an undertaking that is within the realm of possibility but where failure is likely. Falling short isn’t only probable, it’s the desired outcome. Why begin a project knowing that it will likely flop? The goal is to enjoy the journey itself as opposed to the journey’s end. It’s the liberating feeling of striving for something wonderful but all the same realizing that lack of success is not the end of the world. Life goes on.
With Humans of Silicon Valley I’ll attempt to create my own style but all the while realizing that I don’t have to be an Edward Weston or an Ansel Adams. The ultimate goal isn’t a million “likes” or national recognition. The intent is the simple joy of creating. So I leave behind the old magic of film to embrace the new magic of 21st Century technology. Ready, set, go!