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Photographer Kevin Abosch Reveals Silicon Valley's Female Leaders in a Whole New Light

“I’m trying to remove the mask of persona.”


Angela Ahrendts, Head of Global Retail, Apple

(1 of 6)

Mitchell Baker, Founder, Mozilla

(2 of 6)

Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines

(3 of 6)

Julia Hartz, Founder/CEO, Eventbrite

(4 of 6)

Shruti Shah, EIR, Silicon Valley Bank

(5 of 6)

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

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“You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about photographer Kevin Abosch’s new portrait series T:W (Tech: Women), which premiered on Wednesday at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, in SoMA.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this effort to share images that will hopefully inspire others to get involved in our industry and bring more gender equality to tech,” said Sandberg.

Strung between two cement pillars in the mid-sized event space were around 40 portraits of female heavy-hitters in tech from Silicon Valley and New York including Sandberg, Eventbrite founder/CEO Julia Hartz, and 23&Me founder/CEO Anne Wojcicki. The catch? Labels. Abosch intentionally left them absent, forcing viewers’ speculation on the identities of some of the women.

Lauded as “intelligent and soulful,” by Hearst Magazine Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles, the tightly cropped images were shot using a single light source, a black backdrop, and in sessions of five minutes or less.

“This is art activism, as all my art is,” said Abosch, who plans to repeat the project with female tech leaders in at least forty countries over the next few years.

Abosch had been photographing tech founders, men and women, for the past few years—but the project’s female focus snapped into place after he learned about the extreme drop off of preadolescent girls from tech pursuits in a conversation with a friend at Coder Dojo. “At the time I was sort of perplexed,” he said, “but I never looked at my portraits of female founders the same way.”

The inspired reactions from schoolgirls viewing an early iteration of the show at Intel sold Abosch on the need to expand on the project.

With this young audience in mind, Abosch notes that any venue showing the works will be required to invite school children and that the exhibitions will be free and open to the public.

“I generally don’t like to put names when I do portraits of people,” Abosch explains, “I’m trying to remove the mask of persona.”

This can sometimes lead to farcical results, says Abosch, “Like somebody just saw Anne Wojcicki from 23andMe. She looks a lot like her sister, who’s the CEO of Youtube, and they’re like, oh, that’s the CEO of Youtube.”

Abosch is undecided on whether the full Silicon Valley series, 120 photos and counting, will be shown with labels identifying the women when it’s displayed at UC Berkeley later this year. It boils down to this question: Can Sandberg still be a role model if you don’t know who she is?


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