This photographer inadvertently created a document of Silicon Valley before Big Tech moved in

Victor at Attention, Sunnyvale California 1959. (David Pace/Schilt Publishing)

In 1959, at the tender age of eight, David Pace would receive a gift that would end up transforming his life. It would set in motion a journey that would see him become a celebrated photographer whose work would be featured in 2019 Venice Biennale.

Pace’s journey would be a little bit circuitous. He didn’t dedicate himself to photography at first, instead following his father into the business world, managing his family’s wholesale hardware distributorship.

But Pace didn’t really take to business, and eventually found himself enrolled in an MFA program, yearning for a more meaningful path in life. It was here that he rediscovered the camera he had gotten decades earlier, and that circuitous loop started to close.

Before his death in 2020, Pace would end up publishing two books with Schilt Publishing in Amsterdam: “Images in Transition: Wirephotos 1938-45” and “Where the Time Goes.” On the first book, Pace collaborated with gallerist Stephen Wirtz and the second with his wife, Diane Jonte-Pace. Pace and his wife collaborated on a third book, also published by Schilt, called “Hawkeye.”

The photographs contained in “Hawkeye” come fresh from when Pace got his first camera as a gift in 1959. The camera was a Kodak Hawkeye, which lends the book its name. The book brings together Pace’s earliest images, which were mostly made up of friends, family and school moments. The photos lack the polish of professionalism, but that’s also what makes them so interesting, if not endearing.

Off-kilter and raw, the photos in “Hawkeye” are a record of a person finding their true calling. Though it took Pace decades to find that calling, he instinctively understood its hold on him. Jonte-Pace makes note of this in an afterword she wrote for the book, saying: “David often commented that he could see a clear trajectory from his early Hawkeye images of family, friends, and teachers at school, to the photographic projects he undertook in later years.”

Pace’s own words, recalled again by his wife in the book’s final pages, reinforces this instinctive understanding: “I was a very shy child. I realized from that very first experience that I could speak though images. I became a photographer that day. Now, I feel the same excitement every time I pick up my camera.”

While Pace’s photos in “Hawkeye” are a record of his earliest artistic endeavors with a camera, there’s something of additional interest. While not known by the young man at the time, he was also compiling a record of life in Silicon Valley before the likes of Apple, LinkedIn, Google and other tech behemoths took over.

As Ann Jastrab, executive director of the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, Calif., says in the foreword to “Hawkeye":

“Without consciously intending to document cultural change, the young photographer recorded the decline of an agricultural economy and the expansion of a new post-war economy of consumerism and exchange, with subdivisions replacing cherry orchards, and warehouses and car dealerships replacing walnut trees. With the Hawkeye, he documented new buildings, salesmen’s meetings, hardware shows, and open houses where his father proudly displayed new products like Marvalon, and young women roller-skated on Varathane-covered wood to demonstrate the durability of new plastic floor treatments. He photographed his grandparents standing proudly in front of his father’s new truck, and his sister, mother, and grandfather in front of the Christmas tree and television set.”

You can find out more about “Hawkeye” here. And you can see more of Pace’s work here.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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