Greeted by eccentric stewards and invited to participate in my own inauguration—I ring the bell, lay in the fine alkaline dust and enter the fantastic world of Burning Man for the first time. After setting up basecamp, I wander onto the playa. It's seductive and vast. I gravitate towards the revolving crowds and monolithic art pieces; some of which stand impossibly tall. The frequent and sometimes-violent dust storms prevent me from conversing much. However, a few shots of scotch squash my inhibitions, and I begin taking portraits of strangers. One woman engages me in a photographic game of cat and mouse—in what I can only speculate is her version of performance art. We don't exchange any words.
Burning Man is surreal. Even the familiar sights of a young baby; or marriage ceremony seem wildly out of context. To the imaginative, it's the most immersive fantasy in the world. While the frivolous crowds party near their campsites, the soul-searchers wander the playa—on a pilgrimage of sorts. The more deviant activities are confined to the world of tents. Although I stumble across a couple having sex in the open. The conservative seem to enjoy the anonymity of costumes. While those who realize they don't like the experience at all–must find themselves trapped in a hostile environment of noise, dust, and self introspection.
Nightfall and the ominous booming of dance music summon new life to the playa. And despite the complete lack of gridded electricity, millions of lights illuminate the landscape as far as the eye can see. It's stunning. Silhouettes, erratic traffic channels and bon fires provide some sense of scale. However, the art monoliths provide the only sedentary form of navigation. In a way that can only be appreciated by participating, I'm the subject of a 70,000-person experiment—a liberal convergence of the financially privileged and curious.