burning man

  • Burning Man

    Constructing (and photographing) art at Burning Man can be hard work. The dust that swirls across the site gets in your eyes, corrodes tools and can jam up a camera. The wind can pick up to 75mph (120kph), flattening camps and installations, reducing visibility to the length of your arm, shrouding the world in white and bringing everything to a standstill. Temperatures regularly exceed 38°C during the day and can drop to freezing at night. This is extreme hedonism. As an experienced burner and festival photographer, Double was relaxed about the challenges that the desert posed.

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  • Burning Man

    Thus this was the project that finally brought out Double’s camera: a photo essay made distinct from others by meeting the people who created the work as well as capturing their work in situ. A natural choice for a portrait photographer. “I chose the art that I featured on a purely personal basis,” he says.

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  • Burning Man

    Bringing his own art to the Playa made Double consider the motives for others to overcome the physical and financial challenges and make their fantasy a reality. Many are not artists in the outside world. The Playa is not a gallery where art is shown and sold; your art is your gift to the community. Some pieces are listed in a guide produced for the event but with more than 300 placed installations, plus hundreds more, both mobile and static, the artists themselves can seem anonymous and secondary to the art.

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  • Burning Man

    This is Double’s fourth burn and despite a 27-year career as a professional photographer he had never packed a camera until he was commissioned to shoot this photo essay. Feeling that having a lens between himself and the art would make the experience less immediate, he chose to participate in other art projects, such as the building of a giant anti-cathedral  defined only by its columns and arches in 2007, and the introduction of a London Routemaster bus which plied a time-tabled route around the site in 2009.

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  • Burning Man

    People go to Burning Man for many different reasons, but one indisputable attraction is its photographic possibilities. Few photographers could resist the chance to capture the fantastical and sensory objects scattered across the Playa, or the artcars that roam the desert hosting parties. (Vehicles are only allowed in the festival proper if they don’t look like vehicles. They can be a giant, fire-spitting, mechanical octopus or a magic carpet or a super yacht, never just a car.

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  • Burning Man

    This is Burning Man. Every year at the end of August, 50,000 people gather for an arts festival in the Black Rock Desert, a barren lakebed in northern Nevada. Together they build and populate a city, three miles across, that rises out of the dust before disappearing without a trace a week later. With a focus on self-expression in all its forms, Burning Man is one of the most extreme and beautiful festivals in the world.

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  • Burning Man

    Wearing a red cowboy shirt and wig, Double is among friends from London, where he lived until he moved to Cairo. He remembers hearing about this event while working for Wired magazine in the mid-1990s, but it took another decade for the “stars to align” and for him to make it out here. “And it was, as they say, like coming home.”

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  • Burning Man

    Tea is apt to be gin, served in a teapot, or Pimms with all the trimmings. A cricket match begins, but, in a rare moment of defeat, has to be abandoned as a dust storm swoops in and the fielders can no longer see the ball. Or the bowler. Masks and scarves are pulled up over mouths and noses to keep out the choking dust; goggles and glasses are donned to keep the super-fine particles out of eyes. Surreal vehicles loom out of the murk: “Neverwas Haul”, a three-storey Victorian house on wheels, pulls up and welcomes us aboard.

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  • Burning Man

    Navigation is guided by the hour hand of a clock, with the Man at the centre; from the sweeping horseshoe of camps, all roads lead to him, a hundred feet up on his pedestal. Beyond, at 12, is a seemingly endless expanse of flat dusty Playa, stretching towards distant mountains that rise up to the bright blue sky. I circle round him and swing left towards 9.45, where I have arranged to meet the photographer Steve Double at a tea party next to a 20-foot wooden bell tower.

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  • BURNING MAN

    At the Burning Man festival in Nevada, you can do anything as long as it’s fantastic—and can be built and burnt in a week. Steve Double, a photographer and veteran burner, takes his camera for the first time. Text by Caroline Carter...

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