Book Review: The People of Burning Man

By Durgy

Waiting in a whimsically bestickered box upon my return to Bahrain from BRC 2011, was a copy of Julian Cash’s The People of Burning Man: Portraits of Revolutionary Spirits. The book presents images of people and things taken in Black Rock City. The book exudes love. Palpably.

Cash, his wife Jackie, the Super Snail team and other co-conspirators capture a slice of the stunning spirit of BRC that keeps attendees returning and the curious aspiring. Each picture says much more than its allotted 1000 words. Thumb through the book and take a magical ride through the eyes of the subjects, through the lens of Cash’s camera and down the rabbit hole.

Most of the images were captured in a photo tent against a nine foot white backdrop during the blistering days’ heat of the Black Rock Desert. Despite the conditions – at times leading to dehydration and prompting Jackie’s motto of “Never prove anything at noon in the desert” – the subjects are alert and expressive. One can see that Cash engaged his models, all participating. The shots may at the same time be breath-taking, baffling, thought-provoking and leave one with a sense of ‘wow, that’s really cool’.

For those that have been to BRC you will see old friends and familiar faces. Some living, some passed beyond. You see the hope of the next generation for this experiment in radical self-expression and community. No subject is taboo – from tattoos, to tacos, to bi-location to immolation – and everywhere in between that the people of BRC and Cash would care to take us. The imagination of the BRC attendees is brought to life and magnified through Cash’s lens.

For those that have yet to attend BRC it shows a glimpse of what you will find when you get there. It is also a challenge to grow and a call for action to find your own voice and ‘live all you can’. Sometimes that may entail heartbreak or nosebreak. The book challenges us to paint our own picture of self-expression without limitation – not just in Black Rock City but in our default lives.

The book also stands as a testament to the rallying spirit of the Burning Man community. After being rejected by every publishing house to which it was pitched (with publishers requesting to keep their copies of the book) Cash mounted a Kickstarter campaign for independent funding. Thanks to the generous donations of the extended Burning Man family, this book of dazzling images (speckled with wit and a puzzle or two) came to life.

Conspicuously placed in the inside cover of the book is a ‘borrower’s card’. As tempting as it would be to hoard this book for the visitors to one’s home, the challenge to fill up the borrower’s card with the names of people with whom the book is shared is a compelling siren’s song. Hopefully people will return it, or at very least pass it on.

To see images from The People of Burning Man and to order your copy go to http://www.thepeopleofburningman.com/

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