Burning Man 2015 will be remembered for the wind, the dust, and the unseasonably chilly temperatures. But it was also a year of first-rate art installations, stunning fire performances, startling art cars, burning pianos flying through the air, and much else besides. It was my 4th year covering the event for Rolling Stone and if you head over to their site you’ll find about 20 images of mine gathered under the heading, See Trippy, Surreal Photos From Burning Man 2015. Some of the same images also appear here (but without the pesky ads!), along with about 80 others that try to capture something of the art, the people, and the performances from an all-around incredible week.
A few weeks ago, the producers of Discovery’s “This Happened Here” contacted me about an image I had made at Burning Man in 2011. The series features short documentaries that revolve around compelling or unusual photographs.
I answered some questions about the photo and reflected on why I happen to love making pictures at the event.
They have just posted a new episode under the title, “Can Burning Man Change Your Life?” As it turns out, they let me do most of the talking.
Check out the clip above, or read more about it here.
The timing couldn’t be better, as I’m scrambling to get ready for Burning Man 2015 which kicks off in just a few short days.
2014 marked my eleventh consecutive year at Burning Man. It was as wonderful and enchanting as ever, complete with big art, beautiful people, dear friends, stellar performances, and—of course—wild infernos.
Burning Man 2014 coincided with the publication of our new coffee-table book, Burning Man: Art on Fire, with writer Jennifer Raiser and fellow photographer Sidney Erthal. So in addition to the usual festivities, there were a lot of interviews, signings, and other book-related activities—which seems crazy because the dusty Black Rock Desert is the last place you would want to bring a book!
This year Burning Man started off with an intense thunderstorm, one that actually shut down the event for almost 24 hours. It offered up a perspective of the playa I had never seen before — open desert, stormy skies, and a playground of large-scale art installations completely devoid of people. Thankfully, the weather improved by midweek and was nearly perfect for the remainer of the event.
It turned out to be a great year for photography, if not a great year for me personally (due to an ill-timed kidney stone).
It was my third year covering Burning Man for RollingStone.com. You can view the Rolling Stone set online under the title, “Burning Man 2014’s Trippiest Photos.” I’m not sure how “trippy” they are. (Frankly, I think other photographers do “trippy” better than me.) But I did try to capture some of what the editors describe as “the desert festival’s coolest cars, happiest campers and most mind-blowing art installations.”
I’ve gathered a set of 100 personal favorites from this year’s festivities here on my own site: Burning Man 2014
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.
“Default World Dreaming” is a new show opening today at Gallery 151 in New York City. I’m excited to be a part of it and to have my work featured alongside an amazing roster of talented artists.
The show ranges widely but takes inspiration from the unique culture and ethos of Burning Man. The annual festival represents a curious and dynamic world of opposites — the ephemeral world that rises out of the Black Rock Desert of Nevada each summer, and the established, accepted, and socially constructed reality of our daily lives.
To those in the Burning Man community, quotidian life is often referred to as “the default world.” It stands in stark contrast to the culture of Burning Man which is exemplified by self-reliance, non-commodification, gift giving, and radical self-expression. For those who attend Burning Man, these values can be so creative and so liberating that they feel more real than the “real” world.
The exhibition looks at the dichotomy between living in a default world and dreaming of an alternate world, one suffused with creative extravagance and limitless possibility.
The show runs through April 19, 2014. For more information, please visit Gallery 151.