Elaborate sculptures, beautifully complex, are vividly pictured here in all their glory, curated to catch your gaze. A massive wood effigy called “the Man” is burned at the climax of the event. An enormous crackling bonfire serves as the conclusion to the week-long festivities.
Burning “The Man” Is How Burning Man Started
It was a gathering that became an event. A community that started a tradition. In a 2018 WaPo interview, New Yorker Jim Glaser shared his thoughts. He describes it as “kaleidoscopic magic,” saying, “it is just huge! There are lasers, there are art cars, and there are flames shooting out of everything. And people do all of this for basically no money.” “It is one of the most barren places in the country, and it blossoms with more creativity, life, and love than anything ever in the history of mankind,” Glaser explained.
It attracts the eccentric, the experimental, the curious, and the strange. It’s a barter and trade community where nothing is for sale. It’s about giving and receiving and self-reliance. People pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert, a remote area two-and-a-half hours north of Reno, to live free in an open and radically inclusive community for nine blissful days.
A Celebration of Life
Burning Man is all about enjoying life and celebrating our brief time here on Earth. Naturally, this type of celebration calls for late nights full of music, dancing, and a rollicking good time. What better way to celebrate and dance the night away than with a larger-than-life boom box art installation? We couldn’t think of anything more fitting.
“Rockbox” was created by Bay Area artist and Burner Derek Wunder. He was inspired to create this portable art installation after observing weather-worn cars with blown-out speakers driving around the desert during his 2004 visit to Burning Man. He modeled his portable party machine after 80s boomboxes and his love of old-school hip hop. This art piece definitely brings the party wherever it goes.
Burning Man's Humble Origins
Today, we know Burning Man as an event that draws tens of thousands of people out to the remote Black Rock Desert every year. However, Burning Man had much more humble beginnings before it became synonymous with the Nevada desert. The first few Burning Man events were held at San Francisco’s Baker Beach before authorities caught on and banned the community in 1990.
The ban was mainly due to wildfire hazards, which is understandable considering that the event was centered around burning “The Man” statue. Founders Jerry James and Larry Harvey then moved Burning Man and their community to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Every year, Burning Man gathers in a semi-circular settlement that is so large that it can be seen from high above in the sky.
A Stunning Landscape
Every year, Burning Man pops up in the middle of the Nevada desert as a vibrant, lively community. A key part of the annual Burning Man community is the plethora of stunning art installations. It’s an amazing feat for artists to plan, transport, and install their larger-than-life installations. Despite all of the struggles and hours of hard work, the final result is always stunning.
Burning Man follows a “leave no trace” philosophy, so most artists choose to use natural and recycled materials when constructing their installations. For example, these giant figures create a striking image against the desolate desert background. They’re made with glass mosaic tile and shiny metal material, which makes them stand out all the more against the dry hills and brown dirt.
Going Against the Grain
Burning Man is a community of anti-establishment outsiders and lovers of all things rebellious. Naturally, the Burner community draws many artists with the same “outsider” mentality. This community of revolutionary thinking and desire for change brings about some amazing art that is shocking to some people. In 2013, Rebekah Waites made waves when she constructed her piece “Church Trap” out in the desert.
The piece was a giant wooden church tilted open with a wooden beam, much like a traditional animal trap. According to the artist, the piece was “about dogma as a trap” and encouraged people to question authority. Visitors could enter the trap, sit in the pews, and interact with the LED light display inside. To top it all off, “Church Trap” was burned to the ground at the end of the week-long event.
Entertainment for All
Burning Man doesn’t like to call itself a music festival, but there is plenty of live music and dancing throughout the course of the event. The nightlife at Burning Man is absolutely buzzing, with artsy dance clubs and live concerts featuring famous musicians. Big names such as Skrillex, Diplo, and Major Lazer have performed over the years.
Diddy even performed on a Burning Man stage one year. The awesome thing about all this live music is that it’s totally free. Although you pay for an admission ticket, you don’t pay for anything else once you enter the Playa. Imagine seeing a free Skrillex or Diddy concert with the clear desert stars shining down on you. Sounds like a dream.
One of the ten principles of Burning Man is “radical inclusion.” In fact, it’s the first principle listed on their official website. According to founder Larry Harvey, “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man.” Technically, any adult can join the community regardless of race, background, and gender identity. This sounds like a perfect utopia, but there are some flaws beneath the surface.
Despite being open to all, it’s not exactly affordable. Attending Burning Man costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Plus, most Burning Man attendees are white, with only 1% identifying as Black, 6% identifying as Latino, and 6% as Asian. On the other hand, many queer folks have found a welcoming community at Burning Man. Everyone’s experience is unique, but there’s definitely room for growth in terms of diversity.
A Waking Dream
Burning Man is a nine-day festival that goes by in a blur for most of its attendees. Many Burners probably go home wondering if their time in the desert was just a dream. That’s why this art installation from the 2005 festival is so perfect, even after so many years. The sculptor Pepe Ozan created this giant installation called “The Dreamer,” which revelers could walk into and sit around a firepit.
Pepe Ozan was a visual artist who returned to Burning Man again and again. He not only installed large-scale sculptures but also directed performance pieces with original music, which he called “operas.” In an ironic twist of fate, “The Dreamer” was later installed at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, which is a stone’s throw from where the original Burning Man began on Baker Beach all those years ago.
Money Has No Meaning
Burning Man is a one-of-a-kind event for many reasons, one of them being its economy. Once you step foot into the Black Rock City community, your money is worthless. Burning Man operates on a bartering system in order to embody the “decommodification” pillar of their mission statement. They don’t sell any food, drink, or entertainment. Instead, everything is considered a trade or a gift.
Burning Man also rejects capitalism with its choice of sponsors. Because Burners don’t use traditional money during the festival, there are never any corporate sponsors pouring money into the event. Instead, people rely on each other to get what they need. Burners completely understand that teamwork makes the dream work.
Reborn on the Playa
A big part of Burning Man culture is the importance of Playa names. “Playa” is the term Burners use to reference the dried lakebed that Burning Man takes place on. When you step foot onto the Playa, you have the freedom to become someone else and play with a different identity. As this metal sculpture depicts, a Playa name is a way to be reborn as someone new.
Some people create their own Playa names, while others wait for other Burners to bequeath one on them. Playa names are fun and wild, such as “Sexy Bacon” or “Hooty.” Once you have your Playa name, it’s up to you how strict you want to be about using it. Some Burners use their Playa name for fun and reveal their legal names. Others only use their Playa names, leaving their true identities a mystery.
Love is in the Air
With Burning Man’s sense of community and free love, it’s no wonder some couples meet, fall in love, and even decide to get married during the annual event. Yup, that’s right. Couples can tie the knot at Burning Man. Despite what many think, however, a Burning Man wedding isn’t 100% impromptu. If you want to get married out on the Playa, you have to plan at least a few weeks in advance.
Before showing up in your Sunday best, you need to ask around and find a wedding officiant who is also attending Burning Man. That way, you’re guaranteed to have someone there who can officially marry you. Plus, you and your partner still need to get all the official paperwork done beforehand. There’s no way to barter your way out of the marriage license fee, unfortunately.
Burning Man might look like absolute chaos to an outsider, but it’s actually an expertly organized, large-scale event. The nine-day event wouldn’t be possible without the coordination and cooperation of Burning Man’s volunteer teams. From the box office crew to emergency services, these groups of volunteers monitor Black Rock City to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
Plenty of these Burning Man volunteers are event veterans and can be found riding around Black Rock City on bikes and other unorthodox modes of transportation, such as a giant duck car. You can even volunteer to help out the day of if the urge suddenly strikes. Overall, Burning Man is full of friendly people who just want to have a good time and ensure everything runs smoothly and safely.
Getting Around Black Rock City
A bicycle is absolutely essential for Burning Man. Black Rock City, where Burning Man is held, is about nine square miles and full of crowded avenues and wild backstreets. Walking miles in the hot Nevada sun is absolutely out of the question. So, a bicycle is the best way to get around.
You’re bound to find a sea of bicycles anywhere you look in Black Rock City. We’re not talking about any old bikes, either. Attendees bring their most durable, rugged bikes to Burning Man in order to fit the anti-capitalist, artsy vibe. In fact, the Burning Man organizers encourage attendees to decorate their bikes, express themselves, and stand out.
El Pulpo Mecanico
Out of all the Burning Man art installations, “El Pulpo Mecanico” is one of the most famous and recognizable. This 25-foot scrap metal sculpture is of a mechanical octopus with many moving parts. Oh, and it also breathes fire. “El Pulpo Mecanico” is famous for lighting up the desert sky with its spectacular fire-breathing capabilities, often accompanied by EDM music for revelers to enjoy.
The mechanical octopus made its Burning Man debut in 2011. The kinetic sculpture was created by artist Duane Flatmo and engineer Jerry Kunkel. The two collaborated to create this terrifyingly adorable sculpture from recycled metal sourced from scrapyards near the artists’ homes. “El Pulpo” has also appeared at festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival.
Influencers Vs. Burning Man
Love them or hate them, we can all admit that social media influencers are a dime a dozen these days. Influencer culture has infiltrated Burning Man, and it’s caused some problems. Burning Man is a famously anti-capitalist event. However, the more influencers attend, the more commodified the event becomes. Burning Man veterans have complained about new influencers coming to Burning Man and making everything transactional.
The Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell even published a post on the community’s blog about the influencer problem. In the blog post, she calls out influencers who shamelessly stage photoshoots and post sponsored photos for big corporations. This is inherently against everything that Burning Man stands for, which bums out a lot of attendees. Many people fear that the prevalence of influencers will continue to lead to making Burning Man “Coachella-fied” and commercialized.
On Theme for Burning Man
Who doesn’t love an event with a good theme? Burners are definitely fans. Theme camps and villages are a big part of Burning Man. A theme camp is a collection of Burners who work together to create an interactive service or piece of art that is available to the Black Rock City community. Theme camps are a fun way to create a more dynamic experience for everyone at Burning Man.
Burning Man villages are a collection of at least two theme camps that work together and share resources. Villages and theme camps serve as mini towns or pit stops that Burners can stop in to enjoy everything from boozy snow cones to a handwritten letter exercise. This pirate-themed camp drew in the crowds with its larger-than-life ship, interactive buildings, and fluttering pirate flags.
We Scream for Ice Cream
There’s nothing better after trekking through the hot, late summer desert than sweet, cold ice cream. Thankfully, anything is possible at Burning Man. Ever since 2012, a group of Burners has dedicated their camp to making ice cream for their fellow Burning Man attendees. This is no easy feat because liquid nitrogen must be hauled out to the desert yearly to make this delectable treat.
The theme camp members spent a whole year researching how to make the perfect ice cream, and they didn’t disappoint. They have flavors like Black Rock Rum Raisin and Burning Breakfast, an intriguing mixture of bacon and bourbon. The best part? The ice cream is completely free. Burners don’t even have to barter for a scoop because it’s a gift from the camp.
Camping at Burning Man
Although theme camps are pretty common at Burning Man, not every attendee has to belong to such an organization. Many people show up to Burning Man ready to pitch a tent or camp in their car for the week. This option is way more cost-effective, so lots of first-timers choose to free camp.
Free camping is, as the name implies, a free for all. People choose their spots on a first-come, first-served basis and hope that they get along with their camping neighbors. A big part of camping at Burning Man is pooling resources and depending on new-found friends to survive the desert heat in comfort. If you go to Burning Man, be prepared to share with a smile.
A Touching Goodbye in the Desert
Every year, artists trek out to Burning Man to erect some truly spectacular statues and structures. None of these installations are as poignant and emotional as David Best’s. Best began his artistic journey with Burning Man in 2000 when he constructed a beautiful temple to honor a friend who had died in a motorcycle accident. Burning Man attendees were so moved by the art piece that Best would go on to create a new temple for several more Burning Man events.
Each year, Best’s temple invites Burners in mourning to write a letter to those they have lost. They can then leave their letter in the temple as a final goodbye. At the end of Burning Man, the temple is ceremoniously burned to the ground, along with the letters. This ceremony holds a lot of meaning for many attendees, and some have even spread the ashes of their loved ones in the desert during the burning ceremony.
Burning Down the Man
Burning Man has come a long way since its first get-together of 35 people on Baker Beach. Despite its rapid growth and booming popularity, one thing has and will remain the same. At the end of each event, Burners light the famous Burning Man effigy on fire and watch it burn to the ground. Seeing the giant wooden effigy burn up in the middle of the pitch-black desert is simultaneously terrifying and awe-inspiring for folks.
The cool thing about the Man effigy is that it generally looks the same every year but with some slight tweaks. The idea behind burning the statue at the end of each event is to encourage Burners to keep their creativity alive after Burning Man ends. Even though Burners have to go back to the real world, they can still keep that creative spark burning inside.
The Gifting Principle
Gifting is one of the core principles of Burning Man. Money has no value in the Playa because it’s based on a barter economy. This anti-capitalist approach to community means that gifting is a big deal. From cold drinks to goggles, people come to Burning Man prepared to give.
The gifting principle of Burning Man states that “the value of a gift is unconditional.” When someone gives you a gift, you aren’t expected to give anything back in return. Gifting is also seen in collaborative art projects, like this mouse trap installation, where people write special messages and add them to the greater whole. This creates a sense of community and connection that Burners can’t find anywhere else.
Don't Forget to Accessorize
Some Burners take their Burning Man fashion very seriously. Others? Not so much. This guy has done the complete opposite of creating a Burning Man wardrobe by ditching the clothes altogether. Believe it or not, many people choose to go nude during the event. It makes sense, especially considering how hot the desert sun is during the day.
This guy’s got the right idea. He’s living his best life in the nude, but he’s double-fisting some umbrellas for UV protection. The lack of shoes and protective gear is a bit concerning but to each their own. Hopefully he put on sunscreen before venturing out of his tent.
Burning Man Fashion
Burning Man has its own unique sense of style. Part “Mad Max,” part steampunk, the usual Burning Man attire is edgy, cool, and avant-garde. Over the years, the week-long event has become one of the biggest holidays for adults to dress up outside of Halloween. Before you head out to the Black Rock Desert, though, you need to know the rules.
It may seem like anything goes at Burning Man, but there are some definite fashion no-nos. Glitter and sequins are highly frowned upon because these materials can fall off costumes and pollute the delicate ecosystem of the Playa. Feathers are also discouraged, but it seems like the woman on the left in the photo snuck some in. No matter what you wear, make sure your costume is eco-friendly and follows the “leave no trace” principle of Burning Man.
Fire, Fire, Everywhere
If there’s one stereotype about Burning Man that rings true, it’s that there’s fire everywhere. Fire art, open campfires, and flame effects are just some examples of how fire is utilized during the week-long event. Although many outsiders consider Burning Man a free-for-all bacchanal, the organizers take fire safety very seriously.
All fire art installations are approved after a rigorous approval process. Artists need to make diagrams, a safety plan, and an emergency response plan before they can even begin building their vision. If a Burner’s vehicle has pyrotechnics installed, it must be inspected by the Playa’s DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). Overall, Burning Man wants everyone to have fun while being safe. The only things that should be burning are the larger-than-life art installations.
Please Do Touch the Art
Although Burning Man isn’t technically a festival, there are aspects of the event that give art festival vibes. Basically, Burning Man is a lot like an outdoor, 100% interactive museum where you’re encouraged to touch the art. Many large-scale pieces and installations are built to be collaborative and activated by the Burning Man community. These giant, colorful cellos are perfect examples of community-activated art.
During the festival, anyone could walk up to these instruments and begin playing. So even if a Burner had never touched an instrument in their life, they’d still get the opportunity to interact with this piece. These giant cellos might have even been part of a communal burning at the end of the week, which would have added another level of meaning to the piece.
Be Prepared for Anything
The weather at Burning Man is no joke. Many first-timers think the Black Rock Desert is just hot and flat, but it’s so much more. Goggles, masks, and bandanas are absolutely essential for Burners during their stay in Black Rock City. Desert winds can reach up to 30 miles per hour, which is perfect for a surprise dust storm.
No Burner should leave their camp without their goggles. No one wants to get stuck riding their bike through a wall of dust and grime. There’s no way anyone can see through that without getting rocks lodged in their eyes. These guys know what’s up because they have their heavy-duty goggles and masks alongside their party leis. They’re serious about partying, obviously.
Don't Catch "Playa Lung"
We’re used to seeing beautiful photographs of Burning Man, with bright blue skies and an endless horizon. However, the day-to-day reality is much different. Because Burning Man takes place on an ancient dried lake bed, there’s alkaline dust everywhere. In addition, the increase in foot traffic and vehicles at the event in recent years has led to more dust in the air than ever before.
If you go to Burning Man, expect to be covered in dust the whole time. Even if you wear a mask and goggles, a thin layer of dust will inevitably get into every crack and crevice. It’s just a way of life for Burners on the Playa. Although the air quality isn’t the best, experts have said that short-term exposure to the dust doesn’t pose long-term risks for attendees. If you do encounter a dust storm, it’s best to stay in your RV or tent until it passes.
Don't Forget Your Camara
Many people love to go off the grid when attending Burning Man. However, we totally understand the urge to snap a few photos here and there. Every year Burning Man has dozens of breathtaking art installations that are simply begging to be the backdrop of your next great social media post.
This woman saw this mesmerizing art piece and couldn’t help herself. She had to throw on her best jumpsuit and highest wedges to pose for this amazing photo. Attending Burning Man is such a unique and memorable experience. So, you might as well memorialize your time in the desert with some fantastic pictures.
These Stills Were Made for Walking
It seems that Burning Man sees more and more attendees every year. As a result, the event sees wilder and more outlandish costumes every year, too. Stilts are a common costume prop that Burners love to wear out on the Playa. Stilts are popular because it gives people added height amongst the masses. Plus, extra-long legs automatically add an element of weirdness to any outfit.
Troupes of Burners will often amble through the camp on their stilts, creating a traveling art performance. One thing to keep in mind is safety. Attendees should only wear stilts with their costumes if they are highly skilled and comfortable walking on loose sand. If it’s your first time stilt-walking, you better spend a few hours practicing at home before you head out to the desert.
Burning Man Loves Steampunk
If there’s one aesthetic that has remained popular with Burning Man attendees, it’s steampunk. Steampunk is a subculture that combines Victorian culture and fashion with a retrofuturistic, industrial vibe. Think lots of top hats, goggles, and metal gears. This art installation from 2018 shows Burning Man’s steampunk influence hard at work.
The metal gears, the larger-than-life angel theme, and the brutal metal all bring to mind a dystopian steampunk fairytale. Thankfully, it was built for climbing so plenty of Burners got their photo-op atop the giant wing sculpture. We can’t help but wonder how this guy got down after getting his photo.
The Crazier, the Better
Community participation is one of the ten principles of Burning Man. The more radical your participation, the better. According to the principle, “everyone is invited to play” and participate in deeply personal experiences that elevate their Burning Man experience into something transcendent. For many people, community participation involves group outfits, wild wigs, and plenty of body paint.
This group is having an absolute blast doing a can-can line in the middle of the desert. Nudity is pretty common at Burning Man, so it’s no surprise that these Burners covered every nook and cranny on their bodies with bright paint. Hopefully, they put some sunblock on beforehand.
Leave No MOOP
Burning Man has its own special lingo that regular Burners know by heart. The term “MOOP” means “matter out of place” and is used to describe anything not part of the Black Rock Desert environment. The goal of Burning Man is to leave no MOOP behind after the event. That means all bikes, interactive installations, and trash must be hauled out when people go home.
Having a MOOP-free event is admirable. Many have praised Burning Man for how clean attendees leave the desert afterward. Everyone takes the “leave no trace” principle very seriously. There are some problems when Burners get back to the “real world,” though. Some nearby cities and businesses have complained about Burners dumping bags full of trash in their dumpsters, causing a mess and an inconvenience. However, many think an inconvenience is better than leaving behind detrimental litter that harms desert wildlife.
Burn Man has a DMV
You can never escape DMV, even at Burning Man, the hub of counter-culture and radical creativity. However, the Burning Man DMV is a little different. First off, “DMV” stands for “Department of Mutant Vehicles” instead of “Department of Motor Vehicles.” So what’s a mutant vehicle, you ask? Well, this traveling tent-slash-car is a perfect example.
Mutant vehicles are basically traveling art pieces on the Playa They’re a big deal. Attendees trick out vehicles to look like giant bunnies, neon sharks, and so much more. Before these cars enter the Playa, they must be inspected and registered by the Burning Man DMV. That means it has to pass a brake and headlight inspection, among other things. Another requirement is that all vehicles at Burning Man have to be sufficiently weird. If you show up with your ‘87 Civic and some fuzzy dice, you’ll probably get turned away.
Burning Man art installations are famous for using reclaimed materials, recycled scraps, and found objects. Artists often receive grants from Burning Man Arts to create their original sculptures, and they fully embrace the eco-minded ethos of the event. This kinetic sculpture by artist Barry Crawford is one of the most memorable Burning Man sculptures in recent memory.
“Rearing Horse” debuted at the 2018 Burning Man event and turned heads for all the right reasons. This majestic stallion is made with old machinery that Crawford found in trash dumps and salvage yards. The statue has a bunch of moving parts, including the horse’s mane, legs, and tail. The statue was such a hit that it was installed in various other places around Nevada, like a Reno casino and the San Mateo Maker Faire.
The Fertile Chaos Zone
Burning Man is beloved by many for its wild nature and mind-bending approach to having fun. The Black Rock Desert, where Burning Man takes place every year, is a two-hour drive up from Reno, Nevada, and the build-up is huge for attendees. As they approach the gates to Burning Man, the anticipation grows. Everyone knows they’re entering a “fertile chaos zone,” as this sign implies.
“Fertile chaos zone” is a perfect description of the famous arts and culture event. There’s dancing, drinks, sun, substances, and so much more. The main point of Burning Man is to get in touch with your radical creativity. Everyone is free to achieve that however they deem fit, within reason. Burning Man is whatever you choose to make it.
Wait Until Sunset
Burning Man is a nine-day-long party that doesn’t stop. However, the scorching late summer sun can be quite the drain. The main trick to surviving Burning Man is being strategic about when you party. There are things going on during the day, but the real party starts when the sun goes down.
Cooler temperatures mean more shenanigans, dance parties, LED light installations, and pyrotechnics. The important thing is to be open to whatever comes your way at Burning Man after dark. Burners often say that every night is different because the event is so huge, and there are so many different camps to explore.
Rising from the Ashes
Black Rock City only exists once a year. After Burning Man is over, the entire city is deconstructed and disappears without a trace. In order to set up infrastructure for such a huge gathering of people, a team of volunteers spends up to a month beforehand setting everything up. A big part of the set-up involves constructing all the large-scale sculptures.
Some artists spend a whole year planning out their art pieces. Then, about two weeks before opening day, they show up to Black Rock City to begin installing their creations. The placement of each sculpture, installation, and camp is carefully plotted out by Burning Man volunteers, making the 9-mile city a teeming center of art and culture for one week a year.
The Perfect Shot
Many Burners have complained about influencers and ultra-wealthy attendees taking over Burning Man in recent years. Despite the influx of people obsessed with getting the perfect shot for their socials, the beauty of the Black Rock Desert is undeniable. People planning a trip to Burning Man can, of course, take as many photos as they want. But they have to follow certain common-sense rules.
Photographers and models at Burning Man have to be respectful of the art installations and other people’s space. No matter how good someone looks, people need to ask permission before snapping a photo. Another rule is that creeps aren’t allowed. This is generally a good rule for all aspects of life, but Burners monitor each other during Burn Week to make sure no one’s inappropriately using a telephoto lens or harassing young women who attend the event.
Sober but Not Somber
Burning Man definitely has a reputation for being a hotbed of 24/7 drinking, psychedelics, and other mind-altering substances. However, not everyone goes out to the desert to take part in the drunken revelry. There is a growing community of sober Burners, so much so that there are a few sober-focused theme camps.
Burners won’t find anything but cold water in these giant coolers. Thankfully, the sober-focused theme camps create a supportive environment for Burners who can’t or won’t partake in drugs or drinking. People can still have a blast at Burning Man while chugging water. The best part? There’s no risk of a hangover the next day.
Disneyland for Adults
If you love Disneyland’s famous Electrical Parade, boy, do we have news for you. Burning Man is basically Disney’s Electrical Parade but for adults. Every night during the event, specially-made sculptures, rides, and interactive installations light up the desert sky with LED lights and fire. The pitch black of the barren desert makes quite a backdrop for bright neon light shows and elaborate pyrotechnics.
This elaborate sculpture serves as a playground during the day and a breathtaking light show at night. Obviously, the flames coming out of the slide make this installation inaccessible during the evening. But it sure makes a cool light show to admire from afar. An important part of enjoying Burning Man’s electrical obsession is to stand a safe distance from any fire. Besides, bright lights look more beautiful from a distance.
Rise of the Mutant Vehicles
The only way to get to Black Rock City is via car or RV. However, you won’t see any old SUVs driving around the Burning Man camp. Burners leave their regular cars behind after they check-in and use mutant vehicles instead. Mutant vehicles are moving art pieces. Burners must create their own mutant vehicles from scratch, or they can use a stripped-down base frame. The wilder their creation, the better.
The main objective is that all Burning Man cars must be handmade and cannot resemble a regular vehicle in any way, shape, or form. People get extremely creative, building movable pirate ships, fire-breathing rhinos, metallic sharks, and so much more. The only requirements for mutant vehicles are a five-mile-per-hour speed limit, headlight capabilities, and working brakes.
In case you weren’t aware, tutus are a big deal at Burning Man. In fact, so many people love wearing tutus that the term “Tutu Tuesday” was coined as an offshoot of this popular costume choice. People of all genders and identities dress up in colorful, rave-tastic tutus on the Tuesday of Burn Week.
People often wear their tutus with bathing suit tops, knee-high socks, and shorts. Some of the most daring Burners choose to wear nothing at all underneath their tutus. It’s all a matter of personal preference. The main point of Tutu Tuesday is to express yourself and celebrate radical inclusion. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that wearing a tutu is incredibly fun and freeing.
Burners are Life-Long Friends
Burning Man started off as a casual get-together of a few dozen people. Today, it draws tens of thousands of people from all over the world to the Nevada desert. Although a ticket to Burning Man can be quite expensive these days, that doesn’t stop diehard Burners from attending every year. Regular Burners look forward to meeting up with their old crew and distant friends during Burn Week.
People who attend Burning Man come from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom. Even though there are veteran Burners who attend every year and have hundreds of friends, newcomers need not be intimidated. The Burner community is always open to newbies who are willing to work hard, play hard, and embody the radical DIY principles of the event.
Artwork Set Against a Burning Sky
This fabulous and dynamic dancer sculpture was introduced to the festival by Marco Cochrane. Called “Bliss Dance,” the 40-foot tall, 7,000-pound artwork was featured at Burning Man in the year 2010. made of stainless steel mesh, the dancer glistens in the sun. However, with 1,000 LED lights, the figure is just as stunning when it lights up at night.
The inferno-like sunset in this image sets the dancer off with ethereal otherworldliness. Bliss Dance was a favorite of festival judges. The artist was born in Italy and raised in California during the Civil Rights Movement. Cochrane’s mission in art is to empower women.
Ask pretty much any Burner and they will tell you that the festival and the Playa feel like a huge playground for grownups. You can get silly, dress silly, and act silly, and no one will bat an eye. This huge ballerina installation at Burning Man can be a nod to many people's childhood as many little girls take a ballet class or two when they are little.
The thing with ballet, however, is that it has rigid technique and requires discipline and concentration, which aren't really childlike. As human-sized people gaze up at this massive dancer, they can be reminded of their freedom to move, dance, and explore their bodies like children once again, without the limitations of posture and proper technique.
Stairway to Heaven
Given that all Burning Man goers do their best to live in for a few days of the fantasyland of their own doing, it is no surprise to find some fantastic beasts there. Like this giant unicorn that we see in this picture. In line with many of the sculptures and installations at the festival, this sculpture seems to have been specifically designed to bring out the Burner’s inner child.
It’s a giant unicorn rocking horse with a tail in the form of a rainbow staircase that leads the way to mount the sparkly animal. What better way to cleanse the Burner’s soul than to take a rocking ride on this plaything?
The Pyramid Jungle Gym
Another way to unleash the Burner’s inner child is to climb away on this gigantic structure. The 21-foot-tall sculpture is a work of art called Bat Country. It was chosen as one of the 2013 Burning Man Honorarium Art Projects. When you first look at it, the triangular, multi-leveled climbing cage looks like it is made out of the same metal rods that make the monkey bars at your interest playground.
However, the magnificent climbing structure is pieced together by 384 aluminum baseball bats and 130 individual softballs, used as joints. For the brainiacs out there, Bat Country is a mathematical presentation of a third-generation Sierpinski tetrahedron.
The Shark Mobile
Not all art installations at Burning Man are stationary. In fact, one of the event's highlights is decorating vehicles to construct mobile works of art that will move around the compound and interact with people. This neon-accented great white shark on wheels is one of these spectacular rides.
All aboard! The shark mobile was crafted for Burning Man 2012. Designed to undo what the Jaws franchise did and purge the fear of sharks, this enormous great white had Burners climb into its gut, look through the razor-sharp teeth to see where they’re heading, and, most importantly, have a wonderful time traversing the Playa.
A Flaming Recycled Scrap-Metal Octopus
Here is one of the more unique vehicles to have ever cruised the Playa. Enormous flaming tentacles crown this contrivance like no other. It’s a 25-foot-high flame shooter. It first visited Burning Man in 2011. The contraption of mechanical parts and labor is endearingly named El Pulpo Mecanico, or the Giant Flaming Octopus.
This piece is a combination of art and technology based on a 1973 Ford 250 pickup truck. The monster artwork consumes 200 gallons of propane per night, so the Humboldt County creators took up donations to bring her back. Here she is at that 2012 event pictured under a magical sky.
The Tower of Pink
We know what you're thinking. You take one look at this spiky top and your brain automatically goes "Oh cool, it's the Empire State Building. Now what are we having for dinner? Also, we're out of eggs." But tell your brain to take another second and another look to understand that this is actually a ginormous model of a rocket ship.
Where else might you find a towering flaming neon pink rocket ship, constructed exclusively for adults? Nowhere, we're quite sure. And at its base this thing has wheels! It’s a mobile rocket structure. Burning Man is a special and unique spectacle.
Tunnel of Lights
This Burning Man work of art is a tunnel of light and music, pulsating in sync. Called the Sonic Runway, the 1,000-foot tunnel is constructed of 32 circular steel arches lit with LED lights. Lights flash on the arches to the speed of sound. The exhibit is meant to visualize sound waves.
The folks over at Sonic Runway say, “The speed of sound is roughly 767 miles/hour or 343 meters/sec. The Sonic Runway is 1,000’ long, so a single beat will travel the Runway in about a second.” The picture you see here is from when the installation was set at San José City Hall, letting non-Burners enjoy the experience as well.
A Cosmic Neon Beacon of Light
Imagine being in the desert at night; you're wandering around the dark plains, pulling the coat tighter around your shoulders, and as you look ahead, you see in the distance something that looks like a bunch of glowing tipis. Is it that funny pill you took earlier? Nope. It's Burning Man.
This structure of brilliant proportions visited Burning Man in 2014. It’s called Cubatrom Evolution or Starway. It looks like a futuristic Christmas tree or maybe an alien craft from Star Trek. Whatever the inspiration was — it’s magnificent. It’s a lighted respite from the dark desert landscape and a spiral of light to trip out on.
The Lazy-Burner-Boy Section
Don't let the mass of people on sleeping bags, mats, and various impromptu beds fool you — this isn't a refugee camp. Take a closer look and you will see the couches and the costumes, and that most of them are just having a rest. For Burners looking for the comforts of home, this is the place.
Grab a magazine and put your feet up. Or just chill out and hang with your peeps. It looks like a good place to rest weary bones. Sleeping in a tent on the rock-hard desert ground for days on end takes its toll. These people found a comfy oasis.
Here’s another sprawling climbing structure, only this one is lorded over by a massive black widow spider. The red dot gives it away. Take a closer look and you will see that the web is also meant to be illuminated by red string lights.
Most people who are scared of spiders would likely keep their distance from this plaything. But it's a shame that they will miss out on so many things: the artistry of it, the opportunity to play with it, and the chance to conquer that fear in a low-stakes situation. There really isn't a single thing to lose here. Climb up through the webs of steel and cable and expunge those fears at once!
Burning the Man
After eight days of living in communal bliss, the Man must burn. Tens of thousands of Burners congregate around the massive wood structure and look on as the ceremonial event commences. Modern Burning Man events culminate with fire dancers and pyrotechnic displays. A drone video of Black Rock City on the final night of Burning Man 2018 gives a bird’s eye view of this bizarre cultural phenomenon.
Although it's an inherent part of the festival's tradition, in recent years, veteran Burners have been debating over how well the burning of the Man goes with the key principle of leaving no trace and respecting the location's natural resources.
What was the last thing you made out of Lego? We're going to go out on a limb here and guess it wasn't very elaborate. Even if you are a Lego aficionado and get the cool, intricate sets made for adults, we are quite sure you've never handled anything the scale of a full-blown truck.
Unless you are the Burner who built that thing in the picture, that is. But we're guessing that person has better things to do than reading about Burning Man. They're probably preparing their next installation as we speak. One look at this truck made of giant Lego blocks drives home the idea that Burning Man is an adult playground. How many Legos did it take to decorate this Burning Man float? Who knows. Clearly, it’s a fun way to get around the Playa.
This illuminated rainbow-colored arch served as the entrance for Burning Man 2012. The third eye reminds Burners of the spiritual journey they are commencing upon and to meditate and look within. But it will cost you to walk through the lighted rainbow. Burning Man tickets start at $425. Driving a car in stacks $100 onto the fee — another reason it’s better to bike in. Kids under 12 are free.
To reserve a spot before the next Burning Man sells out, you can purchase pre-sale tickets in March for $1,400 each. After that, you may not have any money left to bring to the currency-free event!
The Burning Man Sculpture
This is it. The week-long event culminates with the symbolic burning of “The Man.” Standing at center stage, the epicenter of the Burning Man encampment, looking over the communal gathering all week, all congregate around the structure on the last night.
This isn't just a big bonfire we're talking about. It takes professionals to build it and it takes professionals to burn it to a crisp. The effigy is ignited by a pyrotechnic performance as Burners cheer on the flames. Generally, the Man stands 40 feet high, but in 2019, 80,000 Burners witnessed a 60-foot-high Man burn to the ground.
The Eternal Carousel
This massive sculpture, the size of a country fair fun zone ride, presumably spins endlessly with human-shaped forms strapped on for dear life. Only the artist knows the meaning, but this one can seem a bit creepy. It’s hard to tell if it represents an amusement park ride or something else.
What if it symbolizes corpses hung by meat hooks, a spinning death carousel, like a gloating serial killer’s masterwork? Or, considering the poses and positions of the body sculptures, maybe it's meant to depict an adult person doing a backflip and enjoying feeling like a child again? Yeah, it's probably that last thing.
Not a Festival
Over the years, Burning Man has evolved from a bonfire among friends in San Francisco to an international phenomenon attended by modern-day hippies and tech moguls alike. It is many things, however, despite what people say (and by "people" we mean "we, in this very article"), the organizers insist that the event is NOT a festival.
Whatever it is, it is held together by a dedicated community and set of organizational rules and principles. Here we take a peek into the Burning Man take on a double-decker bus — a truck with an added tier and a couple of antennae chauffeuring people around the Playa.
Here we see rows of hundreds of cars, vans, trucks, bikes, and various hybrid, man-made vehicles a la Frankenstein on their departure back, as they leave Black Rock City to return to the world. Many arrive by car but the few Burners who can afford it arrive by private planes or helicopters.
It's not an easy place to get to — it's not like you can just take a bus or the subway. Still, once you get there, it can also be incredibly hard to leave. But those people who are prepared to make the strenuous journey do it because they want to be there.
Releasing Social Stigma
At its core, this temporary city in the Black Rock Desert, as well as other Burn cities around the world, has forged a permanent community of people who are dedicated to celebrating creativity, self-expression, cultural differences, knowledge sharing, releasing social stigma, and so much more.
All to create this massive, unique experience, filled with individuals from all over, smack dab in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. It is beautiful to see how such a barren place can bloom and blossom with art, friendships, and collaboration. All you need is people who are devoted to the concept.
Over the years, Burning Man has evolved and fashioned its own governing organization along with real city problems and opportunities. (Just imagine what it takes to provide any kind of infrastructure to tens of thousands of people for just one day. Now multiply it by nine days. Yup — insane.)
Nevertheless, the sense of place and community at Burning Man is undeniable. When organizing a community, it’s essential to clearly outline what you expect from the participants if you want them to be willing and active members and advocates. It also helps that one of the core principles is active participation.
What to Bring
When one arrives at Burning Man, you are expected to come with absolutely everything that you could possibly need while you’re there and then some for the community. It all depends on what you can gift people and what is required from you based on your camp's needs. Most camps will divide the equipment and workload among their people.
That includes water, shelter, a first aid kit, food, flashlights (the desert is very dark at night), apparel to accommodate extreme and unpredictable weather, batteries, a mask (to protect yourself from breathing too much of that powdery sand), and trash storage.
Costumes are encouraged, and the fashion is imaginative, with attendees following trends and lots of colors and creating some of the most daring ensembles ever. This is how you get people like the guy in this picture. He was in the mood for being an alien for a few days and had the kangaroo boots and body paint to execute his wishes.
Good on him! There is no better place than Burning Man to feel like you are on another planet. For many, Burning Man is a way to disconnect from the 'real' world, so when they return to the real world, it can feel like a fresh start.
Let It Burn
Burning artwork has become a traditional activity, which takes place in the evening on the event's last day. But the Man is not the only thing that the Burners get to burn. Another common Burning Man sight it the Temple — it is a sacred and contemplative space that holds immense significance for participants of the festival.
Designed as a temporary structure that burns along with the Man, it serves as a place of reflection, healing, and letting go. It's also become a tradition to inscribe the piece's surfaces with personal messages that have continued through all of the temple's iterations.
Mutant Vehicles are creatively altered motorized vehicles built explicitly for Burning Man. The term "Mutant Vehicle" was coined by Organizers of the Burning Man event to delineate a type of "Art Car" that was more dramatically modified than merely decorating an existing vehicle. Just like the truck in this picture, which boasts a swing as well as a ship's crow's nest, among a bunch of other things.
Vehicles that are minimally modified with the primary function to transport members are discouraged. This is why at Burning Man you would have a better chance of seeing a pickup truck that looks like a pink sea turtle rather than a mini-cooper with eyelashes on the headlights.
The Essence of Burning Man
Have you ever taken a ride in a firefly? Well, the people in this picture have, and now we wish we were there with them. This light-strung vehicle is a mode of transportation that can only be made by a group of dedicated people. This is one of the core qualities of Burning Man culture — coming together to create fantasy just for fantasy's sake.
The growth and infrastructure allow for more creativity from the participants, who then bring back Black Rock City's essence to the “default” world. If nothing else, the pure harshness of the desert will continue to make collective survival a uniting factor for most inhabitants, forcing burners to rely on each other and find commonalities.
As the festival is held in a lakebed desert with sand so fine and powdery, it makes sense that there would be a lot of dust storms, so many of the Burners come prepared with appropriate provisions, such as goggles, bandanas, and masks to help reduce dust inhalation and end up with cleaner lungs.
As you can see, these dust storms can be quite brutal and sometimes even dangerous as the storm reduce visibility to a few feet. This also means that whatever costumes, installations, and modified cars Burners are planning to bring — they need to make sure they can withstand those dusty conditions.
The spirit of modern-day hippie-ness that surrounds Burning Man will have you thinking that the average Burner is also an average human in terms of living standards. However, that's usually not the case. Despite the festival's essence, elite crowds are widespread throughout the event.
Some 79% of the participants were white, and their median household income exceeded $94,000 a year, that's more than double the county's norm. When elites invade Burning Man, they bring luxury with them. Ultrarich festivalgoers sometimes charter private planes or helicopters to the event. A week before it starts, volunteers cobble together the Black Rock City Airport on a dusty road.
There is a medley of accommodations to choose from, depending on festivalgoers' budgets. Most participants stay in tents or camp in their vans. Many more have formed small communities and stayed in theme camps. These camps developed as a way for groups of Burners to create spaces for interactive experiences while also offering shelter.
The camps usually group themselves around a common theme or interest. It can be as simple as their love for country music or as random as their love of an incredibly specific flavor of Ben & Jerry's. Finally, luxury camping sites became known as "plug and play" camps and made their way to Burning Man.
As you can imagine, it can get pretty crowded out there on the Playa. The festival usually gathers crowds of up to 80,000 Burners, so yes, that's a lot of people! Many prefer to be amongst all the people and soak in all of that human energy. Others, however, can be overwhelmed by it, and we can't really blame them.
Wanting to be more secluded and sequestered, those people will choose to set up their camps in Black Rock City's "suburbs," the far-out areas that are less dense. This will help them avoid the sensory overload that can sometimes take over one's consciousness when they get into a large crowd.
Jumbo Jet Plane
A group of artists called Big Imagination Foundation built this jumbo jet that you are seeing in this picture as an art installation in 2017. They converted a Boeing 747 into a moving art experience for Burning Man. And it has a lot more to offer than this picture shows — at night after the sun sets, this piece of flying machinery glows in the dark! So cool!
Their plane used to carry passengers in Brazil. Their goal was to convert the aircraft into a new kind of vehicle inside which dreams, inspired by the same spirit of flight, can come alive.
It comes as no surprise that Burning Man is overflowing with artistic expression. We all use different means of self-expression in our day-to-day lives. The way we dress, the way we speak, the way we pursue our hobbies — all pretty normal stuff. Participants of Burning Man express themselves RADICALLY. This means that they try to live their fantasies to the fullest.
Many participants express themselves through extravagant art projects, workshops, costumes, accessories, and themes. This group of burners dressed as furry animals. Radical self-expression can also peak in the form of emotional freedom, allowing people to let their guard down.
Some of the art installations at Burning Man are as wild and imaginative as ever. This family of bears was featured in 2017's Burning Man. When you take a first look at it, you might think it's made of wood. However, a closer inspection will reveal that it was actually made from pennies. Now that's a time (and money) consuming task.
Hopefully, after seeing all these photos and learning about Burning Man, you’ll walk away with a greater sense of appreciation and even the slightest uptick in inspiration to grow into the best member of your community that you can be.
The Music of the Desert
Burning Man is a place of music and fun, and what could be more fun than getting into an objet d'art metal cage and playing a grand piano? The piano is probably really, really out of tune, but that's no reason not to pound out a note that speaks to you at the moment.
It's possible that nobody even heard what this musician was playing, but the desert hears it all. There was a photographer there to capture the moment, however, so we know that at least one person was able to appreciate it. How did they get the piano in there, though?
Ride 'em, Cowgirl!
Burning Man might not be the kind of place every kid should go to, but there are still plenty of families that make the trek and have some fun together. And what could be more fun for an adventurous kid than climbing onto the back of a fake dino skeleton and holding on as she imagines it galloping through the dust storms?
She's dressed in her best post-apocalyptic gear with a cowboy hat and goggles. We say it's a dinosaur, but it looks like it could be some sort of mythical creature made out of rebar and fake bones. Well, any port in a storm.
Standing on a Dream
When you get tired of your day job, there's always Burning Man to look forward to. Where else can you get dressed up in your best tutu, and stupid hat, and dance around on top of a big metal sculpture that spells “Dream”? The list is shockingly short. Yes, it seems that there's only one place where you can check this off your to-do list.
Some people spend the entire year dreaming about going to Burning Man – it's where they can finally let loose after being buttoned up for so long. Where they can finally live out their... we think you get it.
Something from a dream? Part of a post-metal indie album? Artwork from Burning Man? All of the above and more. This metal hand is reaching for the dusty sky, just like so many others in the Black Rock Desert.
There's no shortage of art that people bring to display during this festival, and a lot of it gets left around for the year after, and after, and after. This picture is so cloudy, so separated from reality, that it looks like something from a CGI film – but it's really there in the desert. It's fantasy brought into reality, just the Burning Man way.
The Child Inside Us
Breaking the routine is what Burning Man is all about, but there's a lot more to see as well. Art installations are common, and this one is a perfect example of the beauty and emotion that people are able to provide. With the Playa being a dried lakebed that Black Rock City sits upon, it provides the perfect blank canvas to the Burners' various works of art.
Huge wrought-iron sculptures that look like two adults at odds surround a pair of glowing children who are reaching out to each other. Is it telling us to go back to our childlike states?
Where You Can Be Yourself
Ninety-nine percent of the time, you might feel trapped. Maybe you have to wear a tie, or scrubs, or jeans. Not at Burning Man, as this rad dude shows. This isn't the kind of look that most will rock while out and about.
Shimmering shades, tats, body paint, piercings, and what looks to be the wildest dreads we've ever seen atop his head. It all comes together to make something that wouldn't look out of place in a “Mad Max” film. He's standing in front of a big sculpture that seems to say “Earth,” which very possibly means something. Hard to tell.
Where Else But Burning Man?
To say that Burning Man is a unique place is not going far enough. This yearly gathering has created some of the most incredible sights and pictures for the world to see. The metal sculptures, the people dressed in whatever they want, the desert heat, the setting sun, the dust storms. It is all just so otherworldly
So very often it all comes together to create something that you'll never forget. If your heart belongs to this festival, then this is the picture for you. The people around the metal heart will never be identified, but that doesn't really matter.
A Dip in the Pool
Burning Man takes place in a desert, that much you know. While not all deserts are hot (Antarctica is a desert, believe it or not), this one certainly is. With plenty of sun, gross dust, sweat, and other people, sometimes the thing you need the most is to take a nice dip in some fresh water.
This guy knows what's up. You might even enjoy Burning Man for all the normal stuff, but it's hard not to think that cleansing yourself in a tub full of ice water would feel REALLY good after all that excitement. Plus, you can get all the dirt and dust off you.
A Few Pods of Pink
If you have never been to Burning Man, you might think that the whole thing is just a dusty town. And, honestly, that's a pretty good guess. It does take place on a dry lakebed, after all. Still, the people who show up every year do their best to add a little bit of color to the proceedings.
For instance, adding a whole lot of pink couches. This place was called Pink Heart Camp at Burning Man 2022, and we're not sure if there was anything else to it besides the couches, but they definitely got the pink part down.
It's an Instagrammer's Paradise
There are lots and lots of pictures taken every year at Burning Man. With all the art and costumes around, it would be a crime to NOT take pictures. It doesn't matter who you are, you're going to end up in a few memory-making shots.
The fact that this person was able to get a shot that was just her without anyone else in it is a little incredible, especially since she's facing down one of the event's biggest statues. She's dusty, she's sweaty, and she seems to be taking a little bit of a break before getting back to the mosh pit, or whatever she feels like doing.
Time to Ride the Dragon
Why, it's none other than Falcor, from “The Neverending Story!” Nice to see you, bud. This finely-dressed gal is standing next to a vehicle that looks like it could transport a fair number of people, even if it can't take to the sky like in the movie.
Sure, the vehicle is an interesting subject, but we're a little more surprised that the lady decided to get dressed up. It looks like she hasn't been touched by the harsh winds and stinging sand. We bet that kind of look didn't last too long, but she was able to get a pic in before it happened.
Art in Miniature
If you are ever at Black Rock City during this huge event, there is plenty of art that you can take pics of, whether or not you're in the pictures. These two gals have decided that this intricate metal art needs a version that is much smaller and with a lot more color.
Whether you're just taking a look at all the work that went into the motionless pieces of metal that dot the landscape or you want to get your shot taken with them, there are lots of options. Even when we are broken, we can be whole together.
That's a Lot of Honey
Every time you turn a corner at Burning Man you are going to see something new. Lots of people living their best lives, plenty of musical acts giving you something to dance to, and, of course, lots of art installations that show you something you never really expected.
There are also some art pieces that are there just because they can be. This piece of art is a bunch of huge bears – in which one might store honey – that look about ready to hibernate. We do not recommend eating anything that comes out of them. It will mostly just be dust.
Fish Out of Water
While the spot where Burning Man takes place was at one time a lake, that time has long passed. Not a single little bit of moisture can be found at Black Rock Desert unless it's a bottle of water brought in by a Burner. Still, eagle-eyed attendees might be able to catch some aquatic creatures if they look hard enough.
For instance, this big metal fish with its head sticking out of the ground. You'd be surprised that someone can miss that one, but it's probably happened. There's enough going on at this event that you could spend the entire weekend there and not see everything that is going on.
Don't Stop Rolling
There's far more to do at Burning Man than just look at art and sit around in the dust. For instance, you could do what this dreadlock-rocking gal decided to do and jump into one of these weird hoop swings. What else can you do with them? Swing around, we guess.
Even people who go to Burning Man want to have a little bit of fun swinging around. Really, who doesn't? Only the most unchildlike people that have ever existed, or people who are sick in the stomach. Or both. Getting on one of these while you're nauseous is definitely a no-go.
While the day is hot and the partying lasts well into the night, sunrise is worth getting up for when you're at Burning Man. The person who took this pic knew that he or she had to stop at “Seed of Dreams” while the sun was still rising.
The detail and beauty of this metal sculpture are hard to ignore. There's even an opening on the head's left side that lets people crawl inside for a little bit of shade, a little bit of private time (if anything can be private at Burning Man), and a sight that few will be able to see.
Climbing Into the Sky
A lot of the action at Burning Man takes place on the ground, but not all of it. As you can see, there are some things that will happen a little bit higher. Not only does this installment (which was called “The Afterlife”) have steps to climb so you can get away from the dust, but it also has tons and tons of colorful flags and streamers that make it impossible to miss.
Getting to the afterlife will take more than a few steps, so start climbing. This installment also came with a poem that we're sure means a lot to some people.
Not a Place With a Lot of Mirrors
Since it's the kind of place that is covered in dust, doesn't have a lot of showers, and is full of people that don't mind – even seem to enjoy – getting dirty, Burning Man doesn't find it necessary to have a lot of mirrors lying around. Plus, it seems like the sort of place where vanity is to be forgotten. Tell that to the influencers.
Still, there are enough reflective surfaces and yes, even mirrors, where someone could take a selfie like they're standing in their bathroom. Better lighting, though, and at least there won't be any shampoo bottles in the background.
Do people who frequent Burning Man need self-help books? There are some out there that say we should all be reading them, but that idea is up for debate. Still, if you need to kick back with some positive thinking, there are places for that at Burning Man.
For some reason, only one of the books has a title on the spine. Maybe the rest are all just picture books or coloring books. Also, all the books seem to be brightly colored... are those actually books? Could they be props? Our guess is that the blank covers are there to help people not judge a book by its cover quite literally.
Color in the Sky
The number of places you can visit at Burning Man has started to climb and climb, and climbing is something you'll have to be doing if you want to reach the top of this colorful installation. Panes of colored glass spread a rainbow across the sand.
Will you go halfway and take a look over the tents and pavilions from there, or will you reach the peak and see it all? The whole point of Burning Man is to do whatever sounds best to you – to forge your own path and go your own way. But no matter what you do, be colorful.
Your guess is as good as ours as to why somebody brought a really, really, ridiculously big baby stroller, and set it up at Burning Man. Maybe it's one of those custom-made Playa vehicles and there is an engine or an operating system we can't see from this angle.
There is also the fact that it seems to have bunny ears and big buck teeth hanging from the top. Still, if you have to take a seat after exploring Burning Man all day, there are few better places than something that is built for comfort for the crankiest of kids.
Nothing Like a Good Spin
A lot of the stuff in the Playa is relatively static – metal sculptures, couches set in circles, pavilions where you can relax, and the like. This one, however, is a little bit more dynamic. If you want, you can climb inside it and grab the controls, turning them like a madman and sending the whole sculpture spinning.
It's been described as way trippy. And that's coming from people who presumably know a thing or two about trips. It's best to be a little careful, since who knows what might go shooting out of those holes if it's moving at top speed.
As if It's Alive
There are a lot of metal art pieces at Burning Man, and for good reason – the intense heat, dry sand, and harsh winds would wreak havoc on a lot of other materials. This piece, however, is made entirely out of ¾ inch plywood sheets, cut and layered in such a way that it looks just like the real thing.
Or as much like the real thing as a huge woman coming out of a half-built egg could look. This piece would be noteworthy anywhere, but it is especially interesting in Black Rock City, where the harsh elements are often, let's say, unforgiving.
Heading for the Sky
Despite how outrageously creepy it is, Falcor from “The Neverending Story” is a character that a lot of people have fond memories of. A lot of those people are now old enough to be doing things like attending Burning Man.
So of course, this animatronic puppet will end up making an appearance at a place that is supposed to be as far from reality as possible while still being on this planet. Just look at that thing. The teeth are kind of creepy. If you didn't watch this movie as a kid, you'll probably have no reason to get anywhere near this thing.
No Missed Connections
It's no surprise to us that somebody would set up a marquee board at Burning Man to display daily messages about love, forgiveness, and getting really scorched in the heat. This message seems to be about people that have been looking for each other for too long.
Wouldn't you know it, they both ended up going to Burning Man. What are the odds of that? Well, since this sign was at Burning Man, probably pretty high. Make sure not to mess up those letters – it takes a lot of work putting each message together, according to the people in charge.
So Much Art You Might Get Sick
Things are always pretty psychedelic at Burning Man. The lights, the people, and the art. Here a bunch of wires hanging from scaffolding present about fifty percent of a face. The eyes are, noticeably, missing. Is this some bigger message that the piece of art is trying to get across?
Is it trying to get people to be the eyes themselves? Or did the artists just forget to pack them? We figure nobody goes half-measures when it comes to BM, so this is almost certainly intentional. Brave the heat waves and the sandstorms and find out what it's like to visit the Playa.
The Wettest Burning Man
The 2023 Burning Man was a strange one. Heavy rains turned the traditionally hot, dusty, and desert-like environment of the event into a huge, muddy swamp. People were stuck for quite a long time, and it definitely wasn’t hilarious to all the people who didn’t go that year. This picture shows plenty of man-goers struggling through an unexpected bog.
Many wore trash bags on their feet to keep shoes and socks from getting soaked. The torrential rain also made it difficult for people to leave or visit, which kept attendees stuck for some time. Vehicles were stuck in the sludge, meaning that things like police or ambulances weren’t able to reach the event. It really put a damper on the fun that Burning Man usually is for those who attend.
The Exodus Begins
In 2023, after a torrential amount of rain, many people were stuck at Burning Man thanks to washed-out roads and an exceptionally muddy area, which had left vehicles stuck in the mud for days – far longer than anybody expected to stay there. However, conditions had cleared up enough by September fourth for people to start making the trek home, marking the official end of the event.
The roads opened on Monday afternoon, which kicked off the event known as the “Exodus.” It’s a cool word for a highly coordinated event that involves thousands of cars and hundreds of helpers trying to keep people moving on a tiny two-lane road. No doubt the 2023 version of the event was a whole lot messier and took a whole lot longer thanks to all the extra work that had to go into it.
Taking a Call
Even people at Burning Man have to do business every once in a while. Just because this woman has calf-high dystopian apocalypse boots, a bunch of multicolored cornrows, and a weird modded one-piece swimsuit (or something like that) doesn’t mean she doesn’t have to take important calls on one of the phones that are scattered around Burning Man.
No, we don’t think they actually work – this is pretty obviously just a photo shoot for an influencer of some kind. There are probably a bunch of these little photo places set up all over the big area that Burning Man uses – what if all the phones were connected? That would be kind of cool. You’d pick them up and start making some new friends. Or maybe everybody will be talking at once and it would be a mess.
The Kind of Place a King Should Sit
There are oodles and oodles of places in Burning Man where you can snap a cool pic, but you can’t just take a picture of a place and expect it to get any traction online if there isn’t a subject! You have to get a guy that has been doing only push-ups for the last sixty days, or a girl that has cornrows for some inexplicable reason to pose for you.
Why does every girl at Burning Man have cornrows? Is it because it’s an easier hairstyle to manage and keep from getting all snarled and tangled after a week of being out in the desert with no way to clean yourself? Why do people go to Burning Man, again? Or, right, the pictures.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
In 2023, Burning Man as a whole was shocked by the huge amount of rain it got, which changed a whole lot of plans for the event, whether it was music, photos, or just enjoying the sun for a little while. Still, the rain was something that a whole lot of things rely on, so there were plenty of people who didn’t mind getting a little wet.
As this sign tells us, if you get burned you have to cool off a little bit. Even those who had to be stuck in the mud knew that the rain was an important part of making new memories. People bonded together to help each other, struck up new friendships, and created an event that would go down in history.
Flowing With Color
This picture shows us a new addition to the Burning Man story – it’s called the Liquid Forest, and it was designed by artist Richard Wilks. He’d been a Burning Man attendee since 2007, and was finally able to make his mark on the event with a couple of metal structures that light up as the sun goes down.
People flocked to the structures, and here we can see them at the perfect time to take any photos: at the golden hour. Just as the sun is going down, it strikes the land with powerful rays of gold. The night is starting to take over in the east, but there is still light enough to see. Perfect. Lots of people enjoyed these faux metallic desert jellies.
Give Us a Kiss
We’re told that Burning Man is a place for love – love for your fellow man, love for your friends, and love for really strange outfits. It seems even the small, grotesque creatures of the desert are able to get some love. And that statue she’s next to, too! No, we kid, we kid. This sweet image might have come between all the other things that go on at Burning Man, like...uh...dancing, we guess?
What do people actually do at Burning Man? We feel like it’s a good place to catch up on some reading. That’s just us, though. We guess some people go around puckering up to little lumps of clay that are sitting on the sands. Is that sand hot? Maybe that’s why everybody wears those funky platform shoes.
We Thought Planets Were Bigger
Silly us, we thought that those famous rocks spinning around the sun were a little larger, but it can be difficult to figure out the scope of things that are in space. Did you know that the sun is the exact shape and size of a Honda Odyssey? It’s true! They make it a big ball in the diagrams to simplify it.
This group of friends took a break during their busy day of being burning men and women to snap a pic with some of the heavenly bodies who came down to see what all the fuss was about. Ignore the fact that the Earth is somehow on the Earth. Just have fun. That’s what Burning Man is for, right? Having fun and forgetting about life for a while. That’s what Billy Joel was really singing about.
But What Do You Do With It?
Every year Burning Man has some cool avant garde art to show off on your Instagram page, and this year was no exception. There might have been a little more rain, but there was still a lot of stuff to marvel at. Like this big cube that has a circle cut in it.
We’re going to assume that’s for artistic reasons, because we can’t really come up with any other reason for a big circle cut in it. This guy is posed up next to it like he’s some sort of cover model, but it’s hard to see any of his details under all that dust and desert clothing and all the other affectations of Burning Man. And what are people doing around him? Just chatting.
A Kiss Goodbye
A desert beauty blows the camera a kiss on what might have been the final day of a Burning Man to remember. This woman was one of the people you might have spotted around the event walking on stilts, or spinning around on a hoop, or twirling on a pole – she had plenty of skills to show off to all the people stuck in the mud.
But, all such things must come to an end. Beauty is fleeting, they say, but the memories will remain and the images will become cherished. But can we take a moment to talk about her outfit? It kind of looks like she’s wearing a bra that has plush hot dogs attached to the front. It also looks like she took a fifties waitress outfit and stripped it down to the bare necessities.
A Little Bit of Colorful Contrast
Burning Man is, at its core, a place of contrasts. The wide, open sky and the featureless plain of desert is suddenly and vibrantly filled with the most colorful people you could imagine. People who are getting out of their shells to dress up in goofy outfits that would have everybody staring if they were anywhere else – but this is Burning Man, so everybody is dressed like that.
Art seems to spring up out of the ground for people to marvel and wonder at. With so much or so many of all of those elements, you can bet that you’re going to get some very colorful, energetic, and vibrant images that will live on in hearts and minds for years to come. Even after the weird outfits have been tossed.
A World of Cactus
Every year Burning Man has something new for the artist inside you. It might not be a very big artist, but there’s going to be something that you’ll enjoy seeing, even if it’s just a performance put on by somebody else who is spending a week there. What do we get to see here, you might ask?
Well, it’s kind of like a globe that is made out of pieces of glass and mirrors and metal that are designed to look like cactuses. They were a big draw for people at the Burning Man, but this image gives us a little bit of pause. Is it just us, or does it look a little...fake? We know that this was a real thing at a real Burning Man, since there are other pictures, but this one might be a mock-up or a proof-of-concept or something like that.
Somebody Free That Big Robot
It’s becoming clear that most of the time people at Burning Man will wander around at sunrise or sunset, try to take as many artistic and interesting photos as they can before it gets too hot, and then retreat back to the glamping tents where they can relax for the rest of the day.
This couple, for instance, saw a robot trying to get out of the desert and figured it would make for a good photo of a romantic kiss as the sun was just coming up. Sure, it’s a nice picture, but the robot’s presence in the photo makes it look a little more ominous than they might have been imagining. Like it takes umbrage at their love and has come to destroy it. Obviously not, but it’s still a goofy image.
A Last Look at the Chalice
When we found out about “the chalice,” we wondered what it could be. Then we saw this picture, and...we guess we should have imagined something like that. It’s a huge chalice that is sunk into the ground. Since this was the Burning Man that got all that rain, it’s possible it started standing upright, and then started to sink as rain fell and the ground turned from sand and dust to an endless quagmire of mud.
Even if it did, we imagine that many of the attendees found it to be exactly in the spirit of the event, and might have even liked it better. Having something to climb around on will help you spend time waiting for your next chance at a fun picture. The metal probably got hot, though.
Showing Off the Dance Moves
These kinds of skills might have been seen in “Saturday Night Fever,” but they’re still around today. This young lady is showing off a little bit of old-school fashion and flair to the camera by one of Burning Man’s many pieces of art – though it looks like that sort of thing could be the backside of a musical stage now that we think about it.
The mud was dry enough to give people some solid ground, and we’re happy to report that this lady took advantage of it using platform shoes that actually went along with the rest of her outfit. Throw in some leopard print shirts and tiger-print pants and you have a look that will be turning heads even in a place like this. It’s time to dance.
Not Sure What to Make of This One
There’s a lot to talk about here. We of course have the two guys who...well, they aren’t dressed to the nines, but they’re at least dressed to the sixes. They’re both wearing frilly lavender tutus, which might be part of something called “Tutu Tuesday,” but we’ll have to let the experts of the event explain that one to us.
Behind them are a whole lot of bikes that don’t have any riders, and then there’s a big pirate ship in the background that is packed with people doing who knows what. It’s just a ridiculous image all around, and a perfect way to describe Burning Man to people who have never heard of it. We think it might have been for a musical performance.
Standing With Queenly Grace
The number of people who can exhibit this sort of energy and posture after so long at Burning Man – which is going to be a tiring affair no matter how you spend your days – is pretty low. Yet this time there is at least one woman who was able to hold her head high after a week of late nights and debauchery.
This sculpture stands proud over the sands, glowing with lights and shimmering as the sun hits it. It’s hard to tell just how big it is, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s ten feet at least. Those people behind it give us a little hint that it could even be bigger than that. Sometimes bigger is, indeed, better. When it comes to art in the desert, at least.
Large Art Pieces are Never Easy
Lots of people show up at Burning Man in order to forget their worries. Maybe they’re sick of being stuck in a cubicle all day, or maybe they need to get away from the house. Yet there are a whole lot of people who are also there because they have a job to do.
They might work for the Burning Man himself, or they might be there to make sure there’s enough art for all those Instagram models to take pictures of themselves with. Side note, we wonder if you have to sign up for a time to take a photo in certain places. It seems like it would be crowded. Lots and lots of people have to work hard to get huge pieces of art like whatever this pictured thing is to be ready for the grand opening.
Color After the Storm
The 2023 edition of Burning Man was a strange one due to the heavy rains that threw the entire event for a loop. Roads were closed, shows were canceled, and people had to cling together to keep from going crazy. Well, more crazy. They were already at Burning Man, so you know they were at least a little loopy.
Yet after all the rain had finally passed, people were able to witness something extraordinary – an immense rainbow that spanned across a segment of the sky. There were probably a bunch of these visible at different times during the rainfall and sunny times, but this one was quite fantastic. It’s the sort of thing that a Burning Man could really go crazy for, but not the sort of thing that will show up very much.
Time for a Ride
Burning Man is a story of two different things: night, and day. During the day, the sun is up and the temperature is high. People are dressed down to get as much sun as possible, and they’re flocking around sculptures and other pieces of art for dazzling pictures and for making memories. During the night, however, the desert turns black.
There are no cities or towns for miles around, and without the lights they’d bring, it would be impossible to see. Thankfully, there are plenty of places and installations that provide some illumination for people who have enough energy to go out at night. We bet that’s a lot of people since a lot of people will probably take shelter from the sun during the day. This love bug is dazzling with plenty of neon lights.
Long Before it Became What it is Today
This picture is from all the way back in 2013, more than ten years ago and before Burning Man had become the immense event that it is today. We see what appears to be a whole lot of bicycles, people dressed sensibly for the pounding sun, and some fun art as well as a whole host of buildings. We don’t get to see inside those very much in the rest of the images on this list.
Back then, Burning Man was still big, but it hadn’t gone through its particular metamorphosis just yet. It hadn’t become the official spot for wasteland raiders desert apocalypse cosplay yet. Back then there was art, and music, and fun people to hang out with, and memories to make. Not too different from now, but there have been some changes.
Desert Dino Buccaneers
Back in 2013 Burning Man wasn’t exactly the same as it was today...but it was heading in that direction. Take this image, for example. It’s some kind of vehicle that has been kitted out to look like a big metallic dinosaur that is all set to romp across the big wide open space in front of it.
We count six people at a quick glance that are hanging on tight, with most of them riding on the back and one guy holding on for dear life from a ring. Are they off to make some mischief? Does this vehicle actually do any roaming? If it’s weighed down by all that extra, we bet it doesn’t move around very well. They might have had to disassemble it once everybody else had gone home.
A New Twist on an Old Classic
Unless we’re mistaken, this is one of the more famous pieces of art that have graced the ground of Burning Man. It’s just known as the Semi Truck Sculpture, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that Burning Man became famous for early on. This picture is from all the way back in 2007. That was still twenty years after burning man started, though.
A couple of huge trucks twisted around each other in a strange, metallic dance – like so many other pieces of art, it’s a combination of intelligent design and shimmering, man-made materials. How long did it take to make? It must have been years to build it, and then tons of work to transport it and put it together, where it will be something pretty to look at. Kind of like Burning Man itself.
Talking to the Troops
We have no idea why this person is dressed up this way – or what the outfit even is – but it certainly catches the eye. Why is he or she up there on a pedestal? Commanding an army? Giving a speech? Saying hi to some friends? We may never know. What we do know is we hope that person has some way to cool off – even something like aluminum foil is going to trap enough heat close to the skin to overheat in a flash.
A full bodysuit like that one in the heat isn’t the best choice you could make...but it will protect you from the sun, which can be just as bad as the temperature itself. There’s a reason people who live in deserts have long, flowing clothes.
The Tall Poppies are Not Always Cut
Not much grows out in the land of Burning Man, but people have come together to make something that looks close enough to the real thing. No, obviously these aren’t real poppies, but they sure do look a lot like them, don’t they? It’s just an image, but we like to think that they swing in the wind, petals flapping as gusts blow them to and fro.
Poppies and other plants twist to point toward the sun, but in such a bright, sunny place, they don’t need to worry about that sort of thing too much. This is hardly even an art installation – it seems like it goes beyond art. Above it. They’re a piece of landscaping that draws the eye and just lets people enjoy it.
Giger or Wells?
These strange creatures look like they’re flowing across the land, urged on by some strange force that we simple humans could never understand. They look like they could come from the nightmarish imagination of H.R. Giger, the man behind plenty of famous pieces of art as well as the alien from “Alien” and the other films in the franchise. Or perhaps they are a slightly manipulated version of the Martian vehicles from “War of the Worlds.”
Their huge legs stomp across human land, laying waste. In reality, they’re neither. They aren’t aliens from another world, and they aren’t causing terror. They’re quite...fragile looking. Thin and narrow. If the woman standing there is any indication, these structures could be up to twenty feet tall. They must be anchored pretty deep.
Sometimes You Just Have to Get a Crane
After all the fun of Burning Man has come to a close and everybody has driven toward their nearest shower, somebody has to stick around to get all those weird pieces of art back to where they came from. And maybe give them a shower as well. Some of them are small enough to take apart and stack inside a pickup truck or something like that, but a couple of them are just too large.
The people who brought them will have to use a crane and a much bigger truck in order to get them home. They still might be able to come apart a little bit, but that much big, heavy material is going to need a fleet of trucks after the event is over.
Some Shade From Some Snakes
Burning Man isn’t just a fun name – it explains what will happen to you if you attend without bringing the proper kind of sun protection. We assume that sunblock is in high demand by everybody, and the whole place smells like that sort of stuff. Which is probably a much better option than what it would normally smell like.
Places that offer a chance to sit in the shade must also be pretty popular. How about a big tangle of oversized snakes? Usually, when we ask that question, people say no, please no. But at Burning Man? Well, that’s just the kind of thing that Burning Man is meant for. They have a fierce look to them, and they have lots of room under their bellies to let people relax in the shade.
The Eagle has Landed at Burning Man
You have to admit that the area around Burning Man has a certain lunar quality to it. It’s flat, featureless, and monochromatic, as long as Burning Man isn’t actually going on at the time. This small artistic addition is a tiny little way to add some more color, and the beauty of Old Glory, to this hedonistic wasteland paradise.
The flag is flying in the wind and the astronaut is jumping around, probably being gusted by the same wind and never able to truly settle down. Let’s be real: if the astronauts on Apollo 11 touched down on the moon and found something exactly like Burning Man, they would think it was an alien species. The clothes, the hair, the art, and everything else. It’s totally foreign.
We Have Come to Conquer
The Playa Mostly everything at Burning Man is just supposed to be some fun, simple art that people want to see and experience and take pictures with to prove that they were actually at Burning Man. Some of it, however, is a little more ominous than all that. Like this one for example, which kinda looks like a brain that grew metallic legs and has come to ravage your crops and burn down all your thatch-roof cottages.
You know that thing has lasers on it somewhere. However, maybe it’s just visiting for the day – the people around it don’t seem to care that much, and some of them are even using it for shade. That thing is ENORMOUS. How did people get it there? How are they going to get it out? How do you get into the control room?