I’m back from two beautiful and amazing weeks in South Africa. It was my first time attending AfrikaBurn, an event now in its tenth year that draws thousands of artists, fire performers, costume designers, DJs, musicians, stilt walkers, body-painters, and countless other creative types, most of them from South Africa, but increasingly from other parts of Africa and beyond as well.
AfrikaBurn is sometimes described as a festival or party in the desert. But it would be truer to call it an experiment in creative self-expression. Each year at the end of April, thousands come together in the Tankwa Karoo desert to create large-scale art installations, build outlandish vehicles, organize theme camps, make music, put on performances, dress up in wild outfits, and—as the name suggests—burn stuff to the ground.
The comparisons to Burning Man are inevitable, but I find that AfrikaBurn has its own unique character and sensibility. I love that it’s still relatively small-time and intimate. There’s a freewheeling atmosphere and a kind of laissez-faire openness I’ve never experienced in over a decade of attending Burning Man. It could be that some rules don’t exist simply because there hasn’t been a need for them. Or, it may owe something to the fact that South Africa is an altogether different culture. In any case, it made a deep impression.
Special thanks to my friend, fellow photographer, and wonderful travel companion Duncan Rawlinson. The two of us hatched the idea of going to AfrikaBurn more or less at the last minute, and it’s safe to say neither of us would have made the trip alone. If you haven’t seen Duncan’s photos yet, be sure to check them out here. I’m also grateful to the many wonderful burners who freely consented to let me photograph them in the act of dancing, stilt-walking, hooping, making art, or simply being beautiful. Thank you.
A few technical notes. I shot about 2,500 images over the course of six days. As always, I brought two cameras and shot with a variety of lenses. Looking over the stats on the plane home, I was surprised to see that the lens that got the most use was my 16-35mm wide-angle, not one I normally use that much. But it could be that the wide open spaces of the desert, especially combined with the dramatic cloud patterns and incredible play of light and shadow, favored a wider-than-normal perspective. That lens was followed closely by the 85mm, my preferred portrait lens, and the 35mm.
Here’s my set of 100 personal favorites — AfrikaBurn 2017