An Afternoon With Byron Katie

There is a wonderful line in A Thousand Names for Joy where Byron Katie asks: Who would you be without your story? “There is no story that is you or leads to you,” she says. “Every story leads away from you. You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.”

Katie’s books and public workshops have helped tens of thousands of people understand how their their attachment to stories stand in the way of their own joy and freedom. I discovered her work about ten years ago and it’s safe to say I had my mind blown.

Given the influence Katie has had on me, I was thrilled to be invited to photograph her at her ranch in Ojai, California. We spent an afternoon taking pictures, having tea, talking about our favorite books and teachers. It was one of the easiest photoshoots I can remember. The afternoon flew by in an instant.

Katie herself seemed completely present, open to ideas, even playful in front of the camera. Many people are uncomfortable in front of big lenses and studio strobes. Not Katie. I was reminded of another line from her book:

“A mature mind can entertain any idea,” she writes. “It is never threatened by opposition or conflict, because it knows that it can’t be hindered. When it has no position to defend or identity to protect, it can go anywhere. There’s never anything to lose… Laughter pours out of it.”

Beautiful words, ones which Katie herself teaches by example.

Origin Magazine

Recent Publications

With the forthcoming release of my book with Jennifer Raiser and Sidney Erthal, Burning Man: Art on Fire — which comes out this week — my photography has been getting a little more attention than usual.

Six of my images were featured in the San Francisco Chronicle this past Sunday as part of a big spread about the book. To my surprise, one of the photos even made the front page.

“A new coffee-table tome, Burning Man: Art on Fire (Race Point Publishing, 208 pages, $35), by San Francisco’s Jennifer Raiser, showcases ingenious, breathtaking and downright wacky installations by amateur and professional artists from around the globe, with color photographs by Sidney Erthal and Scott London and descriptions of the works in the artists’ own words,” writes Carolyne Zinko.

To read the full piece, which includes a nice interview with Jennifer and a dozen photos from the book, go to SFGate.com.

The Telegraph has also published a gallery of photos from the book in their travel section. It showcases images of art cars, 9 in all, under the title “Burning Man’s Mutant Vehicles.”

“Often described as a world within a world, the Burning Man festival is a creative, temporary city with a 70,000-strong population in the middle of the Black Rock Desert,” reads the opening caption. “It is renowned for its art works, which visitors transport from all around the US. Some of these are “mutant vehicles” that people use to traverse the desert landscape. A new photography book celebrates the art works of Burning Man, dedicating a chapter to the craze of these mobile sculptures.”

Check out the full gallery at telegraph.co.uk

 

With all the trouble going on in the Ukraine at the moment, it’s hard to imagine anybody there reading fashion magazines and dreaming of vacations abroad. But who knows, that could be just the kind of escapism people are looking for. In any case, I was recently asked by the editor of the Ukrainian edition of Marie Claire magazine to share some photos of Burning Man. We got to talking about the event, one talking point led to another, and the story turned into something a little different—part travel piece, part artist profile.

In the piece, I talk about why I love Burning Man, how I happened to start going ten years ago, and how things have changed and evolved over the past decade. Here’s an excerpt:

Burning Man is famous for the Saturday evening ritual in which a giant man made of wood and neon goes up in flames. But there are events going on all week long. Many of them are spontaneous or loosely organized. Others are scheduled and take place every year. One of the most famous is “Critical Tits” in which hundreds or even thousands of women ride around the playa topless. The event is modeled after the Critical Mass bike ride in San Francisco, but with a lot more humor and attitude. Unfortunately, I can’t show you images of this, because Burning Man doesn’t allow publication of Critical Tits photos.

As a photographer, I’m also very enamored of the “Black Rock City Fashion Show,” which is a campy and hilarious event that takes place each year. People show off their most amazing outfits and costumes and often perform little routines on stage. The whole thing makes a mockery of a real fashion show, but it also shows off some of the beautiful and amazing attire people create each year specifically for Burning Man.

A question that came up again and again in the conversation was nudity. “Why is it so important for people to get naked there?” Here’s my attempt at a response:

Well, it’s hot in the desert. But that is not the only reason. Some people choose to take off their clothes and go naked because, well, why wear clothes if you don’t have to? There is something wonderful about being free to wear whatever you like—or nothing at all. Since there are no rules, you can do whatever feels most fun and natural.

There is a lot of talk about nudity at Burning Man. But there isn’t really that much of it. Most people keep their clothes on. You do see a fair number of topless women, but not any more than you would on a typical beach in Europe. And the bona fide nudists who go to Burning Man are always a very small minority.

Because it’s August and Burning Man 2014 kicks off in just a few weeks, the media is especially focused on it now. Another magazine highlighting the event is Virgin Australia’s in-flight monthly Voyeur, which devotes six pages of its August issue to Burning Man. The article is written by Sally Dominguez and features 11 of my photos. You can view it online here: Voyeur Magazine

Finally, some of my non-Burning Man photos have also appeared in print in recent weeks. Fast Company magazine published an image I made of R&B icon John Legend. Origin magazine ran one of my portraits of bestselling author Byron Katie. And the Santa Barbara News-Press featured one of my photos of Steve Duneier, better known as the Yarnbomber, in last Sunday’s edition.

It’s a wonderful thing to get your work noticed and into print.

Condé Nast Traveler

Some of my pictures from Burning Man appear in the Winter 2014 issue of Condé Nast Traveler Italy. It’s a 14-page spread with images from 2012 and 2013 mostly, including portraits of some of my favorite burners, like Siberfi, Suliman Nawid, Uncle Ira, and Dadara. A couple of photos by the great Tao Ruspoli are also included in the set. Here are the scans:

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Dharma On the Playa

The Spring 2014 issue of Tricycle magazine features several of my photographs from Burning Man paired with an insightful and beautifully written piece by contributing editor Allan Badiner. The article describes Badiner’s first experience at Burning Man in 2013. It was a journey he had avoided making for many years, he says, but reluctantly agreed to in 2013 in order to accept a speaking invitation. Once there, he was taken in by the event and struck by the curious parallels between Burning Man some of the core practices and rituals at the heart of Buddhism:

Traveling the playa, experiencing scenes from the fantastic to the crudely immature and everything in between, I found more improbable resonance creeping into my awareness between this artsy hi-tech desert ritual and Buddhist ways of being. From the generosity, nonjudgment, and eightfold path-like principles practiced by Burners to the sacred geometry of the city’s layout to everyone’s acceptance that it would all disappear in a matter of days, the playa was permeated with a Buddhist view of life.

And while Burning Man is of an entirely different character, it did have its similarities to a Zen retreat: attendees are hoping for a shift in their perspectives; people are, for the most part, on their best interpersonal behavior; and they take on new names, sleep less, and have amazing insights. Unlike the program at a Zen retreat, many people simply come to dance all week, make love, or blow their minds open with psychedelics. But everyone has permission to follow their dreams and pursue what makes them happy, without judgment. And while some found happiness in pursuing sense pleasures, others took solace in yoga, meditation, and intellectual inquiry. The vast variety of intentions and possibilities don’t seem to separate Burners from one another; rather, it unites them.

Check out the complete article here: Dharma On the Playa

Here’s a peek at the spreads:


 

Icon Magazine

Eight of my photos from Burning Man appear in this month’s issue of Icon, the British architecture and design magazine, together with a nicely written piece by Charlie Hailey titled “Burn After Building.” Read more about the issue here. Here’s a preview of the spread:

Aerial View of Black Rock City

Photos from Burning Man 2011 by Scott London

Photos from Burning Man 2011 by Scott London