Burners of Cargo Cult

Photographer Jonathan Clark has shared his photos from last year. Click here to see them all.

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This is the third Burning Man event I have been to (see 2007 2009) and initially it was my intention to keep my camera tucked away for most of the event in an effort stay more in the present in the environment. However that intention was short lived and I returned from the playa 400 gigabytes (a lot of content) of data heavier than when I left with, hence this post is quite long. So sit back and get a coffee.

It became pretty evident to me upon my first day there that my passion of taking photos is the best gift I can share with to the people of Black Rock City – then sending the photos back to the people I photographed and sharing them with the world. Through my camera I got to make lasting friendships and document people with the most fascinating faces, some of which were painted, some wearing goggles and also variety interesting hats.

What is stood out to me on a human level on the playa is the connections the people create with each other. Participants relax their guard, communication opens up and flows freely and some enjoy the benefit week long (and perhaps longer) relationship with a lucky stranger they met out in deep playa.

Somewhere along the way I became a playa wedding photographer and got to shoot some great weddings. Check out the weddings of Emilio & ClaireLiam & Kat and lastly, the fire breathers John & Corrine. Each one has their very own unique story and flavor.

When the wind conditions were right, I spent time over a the Department of Tethered Aviation (DOTA) documenting in both video and photo the multi talented wind artists. Watching the wind worshippers perform their art at sunset is an ‘other worldly’ spectacle.

A big part of the structural heart and soul of Burning Man is Temple of Whollyness, where I was fortunate to be present at the opening and to be a lucky witness of the toppling of the alter during a major dust storm.

At night I left my camera back in camp at night and the festivities and lost myself in a what felt like being 3000 feet under water viewing translucent deep sea creatures with glowing light. I did mange to capture a few images at night as well as the  Burning of the Man.

On a dust level, it’s every photographers nightmare and we photographers design all sorts of protective shells for our cameras: ziploc bags, taping over buttons to seal the cracks, underwater housings etc. I tend find the protection system an inconvience and I usually end up taking off whatever protection system I designed. The best thing is to  make a conscious decision not to swap lenses on my cameras on the playa to prevent dust getting inside. Something I learnt the hard way.  Luckily it felt that the dust storms took a break for much of the event and it wasn’t until exodus that the full force that sand blasts off layers of skin came in.

These photos are my gift to you – especially for the participants, the people that wanted to make it but couldn’t and for the wannabe first timers who are needing that last bit of inspiration to propel them to the event. These pictures offer only a fraction of a percent of the actual feeling of being there.

If you eventually get to the end (or not) of this photo post, please take a moment to read my gratitude statement.



Full gallery here.

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4 comments on “Burners of Cargo Cult

  1. Every time that I see photos of Black Rock, I become emotional and want to be back there, Your photos capture the essence and fun of the event. Thank you.

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