Last week I managed to finally make it to the yearly mega-festival in the desert known as Burning Man. In case you have never heard of it, it is a yearly week-long event that takes place in the Black Rock Desert outside of Reno, Nevada. A temporary city of 50,000 people is constructed in the desert and then removed in what is called “leave no trace”. Black Rock City during that week has it’s own emergency services, zip code and post offices. To properly describe Burning Man you really have to visit their website as I really don’t think I can do it justice in words.
As a photographer Burning Man is the ideal place. You have barren desert, spectacular art, fascinating people and a night life paralleled by nothing I have ever seen. The catch is the dust. The alkali dust with the texture of talcum powder can wreak havoc on a camera. I had experimented with a few ways of sealing my camera to take out there but in the end my wife’s argument of “that machine pays our mortgage” won out. So instead I pulled out my old Mamiya RZ67 and some packs of Polaroid I had purchased over 8 years ago. I also brought out a couple instant polaroid cameras and I had my iPhone so I figured I had my bases covered. The Mamiya worked ok, although the new battery did not work at all so the camera automatically set itself to a shutter speed of 1/60th. One of the instant cameras was not working either so I had to rely on the other instant camera and my iPhone.
The first 2 days without my main camera were, to put it mildly, heartbreaking. As my wife will attest there was a quiet envious moan every time I would see someone with a big camera. But a funny thing happened after the initial pain went away. I actually enjoyed the event. I didn’t have to carry a camera, I didn’t have to stress about it getting ruined and I didn’t have to shoot every image I saw. The iPhone worked great when I wanted but otherwise I was free to just be a normal person. It was incredibly liberating.
So anyway, I did manage to capture the event in a way I saw fitting with the tools I had at hand. I would have liked to have spent more time on the portraits but that is whole different animal so I just took some visual notes on the landscape and architucture and allowed myself a mental vacation from the constant need to document. Not sure I could do it again but it was an interesting experiment.
You can see more of these images here here