In 1986 two friends Larry Harvey and Jerry James decided on a spontaneous gathering while kicking back on San Francisco’s Baker Beach. Having invited a handful of friends they built a primitive wooden effigy and burned it. A guitar strummed, onlookers joined in, danced and created one of those unplanned shared moments of connectivity.

What started of as an impromptu party just to have fun slowly started to gain traction, to grow as did the size of the effigy which took on the name of the event we today know as The Burning Man.

Burning Man

 Image Jennifer Morrow via Flickr

From its San Fran origins Burning Man moved to the wild, harsh desert confines of north western Nevada. Come August the cracked clay 2 mile long surface known as the ‘playa’ will attract thousands making the pilgrimage to the unreal city, a temporary placed called Black Rock City (BRC) created from nothing and returned to a black state of mere dust at the end.

Burning Man Images Jennifer Morrow via Flickr

Attending Burning Man is many different things to different people but creativity, community and self expression are at the heart of the festival. In temperatures that can range from below 40 to well over 100 degrees and dust storms which can reach 75 miles an hour.

burning man festival

burning man festival

  Images Jennifer Morrow via Flickr

As always the spread of an event from humble beginnings to approaching 50,000 attendances has laid claims to the original spirit being broken. The New York Times ran a cutting piece last year Running on Fumes highlighting how the once alternative crowd has lost its kudos with the likes of Wall Street bankers, Paris Hilton and even a retired NATO general allegedly making up the numbers.

But spirit is hardly a purely collective commodity and for many seasoned or newbie burners Burning Man continues to inform and enlighten their perception of the world and there place in it. Pushing the boundaries, changing them in small or larger ways.

burning man festival

  burning man festival

 Images Jennifer Morrow via Flickr

‘At Burning Man, the random flotsam of human history and global cultures washes up on the Black Rock playa, then washes out as participants return to their default world, having shared in an experience that often leaves residual traces on participants’ sense of self and notions of culture.’

Theater in a Crowded Fire, Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man. Lee Gilmore

burning man festival

 Images Jennifer Morrow via Flickr

Imagine you are put upon a desert plain, a space which is so vast and blank that only your initiative can make it a place. Imagine it is swept by fearsome winds and scorching temperatures, and only by your effort can you make of it a home.

Imagine you’re surrounded by thousands of other people, that together you form a city, and that within this teeming city there is nothing that’s for sale. The Black Rock Desert is an empty void. Not a bird or bush or bump disturb its surface. It is a place that is no place at all apart from what we make of it. The playa is like an enormous blank canvas.

The desert is a blank state. It is empty when Burning Man begins and it is cleaned up again, it is empty again at the end, as if it never happened. (Harvey 2000a. On the Edge of Utopia Rachel Bowditch)

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