The Burning Man festival is held in Black Rock City. A magical place located in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, about 100 miles north of Reno. However, this city only exists when Burning Man members from all around the world come together and create it!
Burning Man is an event held at the end of every summer, where people come together and burn wooden sculptures. Although that may sound strange, the most beautiful and memorizing art has been featured at Burning Man. The fire and neon lights can create some stunning photos! Here are some of the most incredible pictures ever taken at Burning Man.
Summer Tradition for Friends
In 1986, Larry Harvey built a 9-foot sculpture of a man-made from wood. At the end of the summer, he decided to burn it on a beach in San Francisco. It began as a ritual for a few friends until more people wanted to participate.
Due to the success, Harvey continued to do this every year, only each year he made the sculpture bigger. In 1987, the sculpture of the man was 15 feet tall, and in 1989 it was close to 40 feet tall!
Because Harvey didn’t have a permit, in 1990 he was stopped by the police from burning his sculpture. During this time, Kevin Evans and John Law were planning a trip to the Black Rock Desert, as part of a group called the Cacophony society.
Since Harvey wanted to continue his tradition, he decided to go to the desert to burn it. The Cacophony Society was of course welcomed and helped Harvey make the Burning Man even more magical.
Lights and Love
Neon lights were added to the burning man in 1991 because John Law knew how to make them. Although the lights made it easier to spot, members of the society began getting worried that people might get lost in the desert, which can be very dangerous.
One member, Michael Mikel, also goes by “Danger Ranger,” started a group and called Black Rock Rangers. The purpose was to keep everyone safe and break up any fights or conflicts.
In 1991, Harvey finally got a permit to hold the festival. That year 250 people were at the event but, it was getting bigger and bigger every year. By 1995, approximately 4,000 people were there and shot up to 10,000 by 1997.
In the year 2000, 25,000 people attended and, by 2010, over 50,000 people showed up. Due to the popularity of the festival and the number of attendees, it is sometimes called Big Rock City.
Burning man is more than just an event people show up to. The burners have to participate as well. Regular burners have their own dictionary of words from A-Z. For example, they call the land, “The Playa” which is the Spanish word for beach.
Newcomers are encouraged to learn the language and participate. After all, a city filled with over 70,000 people can only be maintained with the collective efforts from everyone there.
Hugs and Virgins
There is a little ritual done for first-time burners. The newbies are referred to as ‘virgins.’ After entering, the virgins have to roll in the sand while shouting “I’m not a virgin anymore” three times.
Once you do this ritual, you are free to join the magical world of Burning Man. When you meet a new burner, you greet them with a hug. There is also a camp called ‘Hug Deli’ which trade all different kinds of hugs.
Burning Man goes Hollywood
Burning Man was made popular because of its uniqueness before becoming part of today’s pop culture. There is an episode of ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ focusing on Burning Man.
Other popular shows also mention Burning Man such as The Simpsons and South Park. In addition video games refer to the Burning man as well. Check out ‘Watch Dog 2’ where the characters are shown attending the event.
Sharing is Caring
Ice coffee at the center camp is the only thing you can buy at Burning Man. However, people there like to share! There are camps where you can trade or share anything, including drinks, blankets, food, and more.
The festival relies on the communal effort to share and trade with one another. Members are usually more than happy to do so.
A Place to Mourn
There is a temple built on the desert for people to mourn their loved ones. The burners who are grieving someone they lost, are encouraged to write letters and leave them at the temple.
The temple is eventually burned at the end of the festival. During the ritual, some people even spread the ashes of people they loved who passed away.
Say ‘I Do’
Some of the especially spiritual and dedicated members of the Burning Man community actually get married at the festival! That’s right; many people choose to have their wedding at the festival!
The event organizers can now help plan weddings! This type of wedding is for the more mystical couples, who look at the other members of Black Rock City as their family and want to celebrate with them.
No Money No Problem
Unlike most festivals, there is no booked entertainment for Burning man. Instead, the burners perform as a form of trading. Although there is no money exchanged, people can still participate in numerous activities such as massages, zip-lining, and even wine tasting, given as gifts by some of the burners.
Since it’s such a friendly atmosphere, people stroll freely around the camps by foot or bicycles to dance, cook, make art, drink, and party with one another. Drugs are illegal and are not allowed to be brought into the event.
Hook Up Service
2000 volunteers called the ‘camp Hook up Service’ attend the event every year. Each volunteer packs a little Burning Man survival kit, filled with Glow toys, Condoms, band-aids, Gatorade, Advil, glow sticks, and even bike repair kits!
The volunteers make sure every burner is safe and happy. So, if you are missing anything or just want a glow stick, ‘Hook Up’ volunteers are ready to help!
Vacation Spot for the Rich and famous
Burning Man began as an end of the summer bonfire tradition for a group of friends, with only 12 attendees the first year. However, it has now become a vacation spot for famous names such as Eric Schmidt from Google and Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook.
Other celebrities and entertainers have attended burning man. P. Ditty and Major Lazer have been seen there and even performed for fellow burners. Reportedly, Elon Musk attended the event on more than just one occasion and even called it ‘Silicon Valley’.
Not just hippies
This isn’t just some festival that hippies show up to. Some of the richest burners show up to the event in RVs and create their own camps. These luxury camps include bodyguards, and some of the best chefs’ show up to cook for them.
In addition, they have people build beds for them and bring the air conditioning… to the desert! However, people in the luxury camps usually do their own thing and stay away from other members.
Destroying the Spirit
Many people have complained about these luxury camps claiming that they are ruining the spirit of the festival. While everyone is trading and exploring, these members come in with premade food and air conditioning!
Larry Harvey said he wouldn’t discriminate based on the amount of money people bring or have. However, he did admit that the luxury campers weren’t following their rules because they are usually isolated from everyone else.
Burning Man Ice Cream
A local Ice-creamery, ‘Icecycle Creamery’ in Reno, serves Burning Man-inspired treats during the month of August! Don’t forget to stop by while you’re in town!
Some of these delicious items are Strawberry margarita sorbet, Black Rock Rum raisin, and the Burning Breakfast, which is some Bourbon and bacon. Yum!
If someone can’t make it to Nevada on the exact dates of Burning Man, it’s okay! Burning Man has inspired many groups around the world to hold similar events with the spirit of Burning Man. Some of these events are held in New Zealand, Australia, New England, Kiwiburn, and even China!
Although very similar, not all of these events are affiliated directly with the official Burning Man Regional Network. Still, they are held with the same spirit, and the burners attending should follow the same rules as the original event.
Laws of the Land
There are thousands of people attending the event, which can cause chaos. In 2004, Lee Harvey came up with 10 rules that everyone in the city needs to follow.
These rules are: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, and radical self-expression, and communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.
“Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”
This rule basically means anybody can show up to this event. You’re race, sexual orientation and culture don’t matter at burning man! Everyone is welcome! Of course, they have to abide by these few simple rules, but Burning Man doesn’t discriminate.
Since no cash exchanges should be made at the event, gifting is encouraged. It’s almost like a trading system where people will do something and in exchange, receive a ‘gift’ of the same value.
Originally, at the very start of Burning Man, Gifting was when burners exchanged favors. Although that is still true, these gifts have become more physical throughout the years.
In order to keep the gifting tradition alive, there is nothing for sale and burning man. Other than buying coffee or lemonade at the center camp, you can buy a wrist band at the gate for the purpose of getting back in if you decide to leave.
Once you arrive at the event, you rely on sharing and trading for anything. Luckily, the members are very communal and are happy to share anything from art to massages.
Since its taken place in the desert or beach, people need to be ready for the uncomfortable circumstances. Participants are required to bring necessities, such as special food and medications.
People share what they have, but if you need something specific, you can be certain someone there will have it. In addition, the LLC prohibits some forms of trading so participants should be prepared with necessary supplies.
Every Burning Man participant is encouraged to express themselves and their creativity in many different ways. One of the most popular ways is through art and projects and make unique personalized gifts.
Wearing clothing to the event is completely optional. Most members express their imagination through their outfits; however, nudity at burning man is not uncommon. Some people feel more creative and free without their clothes on.
The festival is always trying to keep up the friendly atmosphere and communal spirit. Members of Burning Man are always encouraged to help other burners when in need.
Some people may be out of water, forgot clothes or even just need a friend. Whenever someone seems unsettled, members often go over and see if there is anything they can do to help.
Since things are given out very freely at Burning Man, sometimes people create events. This can include numerous fun activities such as live performances and even wine tasting!
These events are very communal and encouraged at Burning Man. However, due to local, state, and federal laws, members must assume responsibility while conducting an event.
Leaving No Trace
This just means the before leaving; everyone needs to make an effort to clean up. Get rid of the trash, tents, and whatever else they brought to the festival, ‘leaving no trace’ of the event.
The purpose is to leave the place in better shape than it was when they got there. With thousands of burners attending, this is another thing that requires communal effort.
Rule Not Followed
Most of the stuff gets cleared from the desert, San Francisco residents have stated that the burners throw their trash all around the city after the event is over.
Sadly, ‘leave no trace’ is a rule people tend to disregard over the years. An environmental organization named Sierra Club criticized the event for the “Hundreds of thousands” of water bottles that are left in the area.
In addition to sharing and trading, people are encouraged to participate and not just observe. The belief is that change, individually or socially, can only happen with deep and personal participation.
This includes welcoming new members, learning the Burning Man lingo, and hopping around different camps meeting other burners. Since the members want to feel loved and included, this rule is usually followed.
One of the most important and valued things in Burning Man is the Immediate experience. Members try to overcome obstacles standing in the way of recognizing their own individual selves.
Being in nature and creating a society filled with love and acceptance is what Burning Man is about. Contact with the outside world is not necessary or needed. It’s about the experience that can’t ever be replaced.
Although there is a Radical Inclusion law in place, Burning man has been criticized for having a diversity problem. A 2014 survey showed 87% of people who attend the event are white. 6% identify as Hispanic/Latino and 6% Asian.
This leaves 1% of the attendees as black. Lee Harvey brushed off these statistics. He stated “I don’t think black folks like to camp as much as white folks… We’re not going to set racial quotas… This has never been imagined by us as a utopian society”.
Scoop the Moop and Poop
Moop is another word from the Burning Man language. It stands for “Matter Out of Place.” Volunteers show up before the event to rid the area of Moop. This gives all attendees a clean slate when they arrive.
Littering in the area is forbidden. One of the rules for all attendees is ‘Leaving no trace.’ Everyone must drive out their trash out of the area after the event. This includes your poop as well. If you don’t use the porta-potties, you can receive a ticket up to $125.
Burning Man Fitness
Members of Burning Man make sure there are plenty of activities in place. These usually include art, music, alcohol, sexual intercourse, and even drugs.
However, fitness junkies can attend as well. The event normally hosts, roller skating, pole dancing, meditation classes, and dance parties! You can stay in great shape and even join the marathon!
What Happens at Burning Man stays at Burning Man
Sex is very common and also very controlled at Burning Man. There are many swinger themed camps and nude camps. Some attendees just want to unwind and have fun.
There is even an “arousal” challenge. The purpose of this challenge is for a man to have an erection, as everyone watches, without using hangs. Apparently, this is a sport.
Save Water, Shower Together
Since the event primarily takes place at a beach or desert, you’re bound to get dirty while attending Burning Man. Fortunately, they have stations at the festival where everyone can take foam baths together!
You have to do your part in sharing. This means you have to wash a dozen other people first. Since Burning Man is about trading, someone will wash you in return. Personally, I’d rather bathe myself but, to each their own.
Creating the Peace
Facebook’s Dustin Moskovitz proudly followed the rules of Burning Man, including the first principle of “Radical inclusion.” When the Winklevoss Twins showed up, Moskovitz included them without any discrimination.
Thanks to the 2010 movie The Social Network, everyone knows the Winklevoss twins are enemies with Facebook. Fortunately, they all decided to follow the rules of inclusion and settle the dust. The purpose of the rule was to avoid conflict, and it seems to have worked!
Changing your Identity
Part of the Burning Man experience is to go in with a new identity. Basically, the burners give each other random temporary names to be used during the event. These names are called “Playa Names.”
It’s another communal aspect to the festival, making people feel more connected. To officially be a player name, you can’t choose it yourself. Another member has to come up with it.
Don’t try and Sneak in
Before entering Burning Man, every single car must be checked. The purpose of checking the cars is really just to ensure that nobody is sneaking in non-ticket holders.
We can assume that they don’t confiscate anything and let you keep your drugs. Although drugs are illegal, the cars are bring checked by festival security, not by the police.
The Cool Kids Bring Bikes
Members of Burning Man are encouraged to express themselves. This is usually done through the clothes that people create specifically for the festival. However, some people take their creativity one step farther and decorate their bikes.
Plenty of people carpool or even hitchhike to get to Burning Man, but the most ideal method is to ride a bike. Not only will it take you to the event, but you can get around the camps while you’re there. People will put in such an effort decorating their bikes with beautiful feathers and paint.
Rumor has it…
It can take artists over a year to create such an elaborate and amazing sculpture. Once it’s finally done, it can be sad for an artist to watch their beautiful artwork go up in flames.
However, every artist is still ecstatic to be able to show off their work at the festival. A Burning Man rumor is that the judges award the creators of the best exhibits a kiss or a joint! I personally think they deserve a better prize…
Burning Man Photos
Many photographers love attending this festival! With all the gorgeous art and beautiful lights, this is an obviously perfect place to create the most amazing pictures. However, photographers must sign a legal document.
In this lengthy contract, they consent to possible censorship of their photos. This only happens in a case where a photographer chooses to publish a picture of illegal activity happening at the event. This is to ensure trust, so members feel safe and comfortable to be free.
Since the festival takes place in the desert, at the end of the summer, weather conditions can get crazy! Usually, it will be extremely hot during the day, and really cold at night!
With the very strong sun, it’s tremendously important to drink water. However, the sun can quickly turn to rainfall. Make sure to have a change of clothes packed and be ready for anything!
As we previously mentioned, members of Burning Man called the place where the event is held ‘Playa.’ The area is ancient and was previously a lakebed. Even though it’s lighter than sand, the land is filled with Alkaline residue.
The residue can cause a reaction, much like a chemical burn called ‘Playa foot.’ Be especially careful if you have cracked skin or a cut because the dust may settle and cause an infection.
In 2014, Black Rock Observatory was in built-in Playa. Every year, the people who attend burning man get to gaze at the beautiful Nevada stars from the Black Rock Desert.
The observatory has two 21 foot domes and a 20-inch telescope. This allows the astronomy enthusiast at Burning Man to see Saturn, Jupiter’s rings, and even other galaxies!
For many people, festivals like Burning Man can be a spiritual trip. It helps them connect to themselves and their souls in a special way. This can explain the psychedelic drugs. According to the Black Rock City Census Team, only 24% of burners would identify as atheist.
Another 46% of the Burning Man community will call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” This just means that they don’t follow the rules of their religion but still want to connect to a spiritual part of their mind or the world.
Hugs not Drugs
Contrary to popular belief, not every member of Burning Man does drugs. Of course, people who enjoy partying and drugs are attracted to festivals like this, but there is actually a growing sober community at Burning Man.
Two camps are set up specifically for sober living. One is called Anonymous Village, and the other is called Run Free. Be sure to check out these camps if you’re dedicated to living a sober life, or if you just want to stay away from drugs.
No Drugs Policy
Surprising to most people, Burning Man has a no drug policy that is formally written. Even if a drug is legal in Nevada, it’s not allowed on the premises if it’s illegal by federal law.
Officers regularly show up to the festival to check it out. However, numerous people who attended the event revealed that drugs are handed out there like candy.