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From the Valley of Death to Silicon Valley: The Unlikely Journey of Doug Menuez

Doug Menuez photographed wars across the world then came home to record a revolution. 

A leper’s stumped arm spearing out from shadows.  Children, their torsos and faces gashed. Emaciated mothers clutching bloat-bellied sons during famine in Ethiopia.

“I had seen so much death,” says renowned photojournalist Doug Menuez, “I couldn’t even process it all.”

Doug MenuezSpeaking on Zoom from a quiet shoreline in Portugal with the men of METAL International, Menuez admits he needed a change. “I started questioning what to do with my life. I needed to find something more hopeful. It was the 1980s and he read that Steve Jobs announced his plan to build a supercomputer for education. “I knew education was the key to every social issue blighting the world.” So he sought out Jobs and told the brash young innovator he wanted to document it.  When Jobs shared his vision: “I want some kid at Stanford to cure cancer in his dorm room” - Menuez knew he had found his home. 

For the next 15 years, in “invisible mode in the corner of rooms trying not to breathe too loud so people would forgot I was there,” Menuez documented the digital revolution - in the labs and boardrooms, the hallways and homes, the pitches and parties, all the ups and downs and hopes and dreams of the industry that changed our world. “It certainly changed my life. I had a seat at the revolution and saw this noble cause descend into a corrupt gold rush as we hit the turn of the millennium.”

Watch Doug Menuez at METAL

Munuez’s resultant book, ”Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley” has now inspired a traveling exhibition that’s been featured in multiple countries.  Doug_Menuez_MMD_IMG1

Jobs remains a compelling figure for him. “Steve couldn't stop his mind. Couldn’t stop working. He would wind up people on the other side of the table just so he could then have them eating out of his hand a few minutes later.  It was like a performance that only he had the script to.” One of Munuez’s favorite pictures was of Jobs staring down at a beach ball at a company event. “It was him pretending - perhaps trying - to be human, for a moment.”  

After years of gun muzzles in his face, diseases and trying to change the world by bringing light to injustices, Munuez realized, “I didn’t have to change the world, I could just photograph the people who actually were changing the world.”

Doug_Menuez_IMG2He also decided he had to pay attention to my family.  “The photojournalist world is hyper-macho and competitive.  If you don’t get the shot, you get fired. We live for the moment, for our art - we’d be willing to die to snap that one picture to change the world.” One day he had an epiphany.  “I wanted to be a good father but one day when I was home from the field, I was in the kitchen with my wife. She was crying, the baby was crying and I reached for my camera to capture the moment, rather than comforting them. I knew right then that something had to change. I had become a heartless bastard.”

Documenting the boom in Silicon Valley gave him a chance to stay closer to home. “My friendsDoug_Menuez_IMG1 thought I was an idiot. “What!” they were horrified, ‘you’re going to photograph guys staring at computers?! Come back to Africa and shoot wars!’ At one event of 21 photojournalists, all were divorced or separated. I had a wife. I loved her. I didn’t want to blow my life. So I stayed.”

Doug_Menuez_MMD_IMGE3Menuez’s archive of over one million (!!) images was recently acquired by the Stanford Libraries.  He now lives far from the glitz of Palo Alto with his wife astride the lapping waves south of Lisbon. She is experiencing the beginning stages of Alzheimers.  “It’s her turn now,” Muneuz says. “She paints. We walk. She was my patient saint for so many years. My mission now? To love her.  To keep her alive.”

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