Daniel Faust is an anthropologist of information and memory, an understated, structuralist photographer whose subject might best be described as storage. He has a sixth sense for what matters most to a given organization or enterprise and a keen eye for the repositories of that information. His photographs picture not people, but their collective modes of presentation, communication, and effects. Faust is hyper-sensitive to where, and in what form, we locate our most crucial information and save what we save. His subjects range from tiny regional museums, to off-hours interiors of the United Nations, to the Silicon Valley data collection pictured here; the sites of his subjects—and the sites of these sites—range from the tiniest of Midwestern U.S towns to Paris, Morocco, Dubai, Istanbul, San Jose. But there is an almost uncanny consistency to Faust’s engagement of his material, which can be deadpan to the point of arcane. Making sense of the content of these photos requires precisely the same slow scrutiny that Faust requires to identify his subject as he works. This is not because he buries clues or complex conceptual propositions; it’s because Faust’s photography depends on discerning behavior via the forms in which people process their information and inhabit their space.
Faust remains committed to the slow setup and straight, “no gimmick” photography on which he was raised—he is a third-generation photographer by way of his father and grandmother—in which time and f/stop exposure, framing, and color are crucial. The photographs he culled from the 200 or so he took in Silicon Valley look deceptively unassuming on first view. (Faust would make an ideal in-house photographer for corporate annual reports and a very good spy: A recent book project, Niche, which he collaborated on, has the feel of a high-end corporate Annual Report.) Faust knows, however, that there is something telltale in a mindset and moment in which minutely printed, black and white logarithmic tables and streamlined iconic, international style “business machines” coexist, and that the quantity and density of cables necessary to run those machines offer a clue. He also knows enough to juxtapose to these a few merely decorative design details—such as the multi-colored stained glass and adobe palette—to give some feel for the external indicators that marked the architecture in which those mainframe computers reigned coolly supreme. Faust’s pre-digital editing process serves as an accurate metric for the concentrated power of each image, and for their intricate interplay as a set. He manages to make these six anonymous images stand for an industry and an era, as well as a locale.
Faust’s aesthetic anthropological accounting is comprehensive and direct. Without setup or post-fact manipulation, by focusing on the forms we identify with an industry, he summons a system of values as well as the tasks these machines were designed to process. His pictures reconfigure Wittgenstein’s most poetic proposition: to imagine a language is to imagine a form of life.