The Early Burn, a photo essay

What follows is a short photo essay of last night’s Early Burn. These photos and captions are from Todd “portaplaya” Gardiner, who will be working with some of the bloggers here during the event this year.

portaplaya writes

The Early Burn is a celebration of the accomplishments of the staff and volunteers. Many of the people out this early have been building the event for more than two weeks without a day off. and this short event allows each team to make an expression of their specific contribution and provides an evening of R&R before going into the last week before the event opens.

Small core teams of artists were formed by various larger groups. The projects are rather competitive and the results range from crass to classy. The next few photos show what these builders created in two day’s time, often from scrap materials.



an Angel from EGO

the Monkey Tower
Builders of the Temple early burn art. Treejay, Big Cat and Everywhere.
Twenty designs await the coming of night…and fire.

Many of these works were rigged with fireworks, adding an explosive punch to the celebration.


Small, but loaded with pyrotechnics.
The show starts with mortars fired from behind the row of art.
The “Complaint Box” buzzes with sparks.
The “Gingerbread House” has a BOOM you can feel.

Fireworks shot overhead and fires roared as the crowd surged left and right to the most recent ignition. Daredevils lit their projects once their neighbors confirmed that their pyro is spent. Roman candles were passed out and people take aim at the sculptures while others with cameras shot photos and video.


Lighting an art project
The Man Base team had one of the two tallest structures. Perfectly aimed to fall sideways.
Crimson fires a roman candle as the crowd enjoys the night.
Gate volunteer “Feral Kid” captures the fire in his lens.

Afterward, the crowd lingered, sharing beers and whiskey. Some depart for bars or parties set up in their work camps. Others stay here watching the embers. It was a late night for most. But work started up again the next day. Later than normal, of course.


About the author: Moze

John Mosbaugh aka Moze is a SF Bay Area heretic and writer who's been hauling himself out to Black Rock City since the Nebulous Entity first beckoned him to check out this phenomenon known as Burning Man. Moze is a "Life Collector" who scribbles down encounters with you to share on the blog. He enjoys the hyper reality of that week in the desert enough to keep coming back. He's been on the Burning Man web team since aught two and has written for Piss Clear and the YEP (Yahoo Education Project). He doesn't speak for the org and he finds you fascinating. He celebrates you and loves it when you take away ideas from Burning Man and shares them with the rest of the world. He likes to make grilled cheese on Saturday (Burn Night) afternoon and give it away because by then you may not have eaten for a while. And he's a big fan of fire and art.

16 thoughts on “The Early Burn, a photo essay

  • He either got permission from the people he posed or made people generally aware that there was a staff photographer working the event.

    There were a LOT of cameras in use during the burn. No doubt you’ll see lots of video and more pics once people come back from the event in September and there were some excellent burns and fire works to capture video of.

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  • “..or made people generally aware that there was a staff photographer working the event.”

    oh okay. same thing the black rock intelligence agency did while clearing people out from under the man before addis set fire to it.

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  • everyone out there knows john curley, and is familiar with him and his camera being around at events, and generally all through the build. he’s been doing this for years.

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  • Two words describe my Early Burn experience: absolutely incredible!

    A heartfelt thank you is in order for two DPW crew members who went out of their way to make sure I not only got dusty, but also felt welcomed: Chicken Bone (Heavy Equipment and Transpo) and (Fluffer) Scott. Early Burn was my only option in lieu of not being able to participate in my seventh burn this year; I am so glad I was able to witness this gathering and display of creativity first hand.

    It also bears mentioning my perspective towards the event has changed. All too often we take Burning Man at face value without taking into consideration the level of effort, craft, creativity, emotion, and personal sacrifice in addition to the blood, sweat, and tears poured into making sure everything is ready and in place for the residents of Black Rock City at the appointed hour. Furthermore, the sense of community cannot be overstated… talk about an extended family!

    Again, I feel honored and thank each and every one of you for your hard work and dedication. See you in 2013!

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  • @Epona

    With 40% of tickets going to newbies this year, it’s safe to say that not all of them know who John Curley is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a staff photographer, the PUA requires photographers to ask permission before taking photographs of participants.

    Simply sayin, ‘Well we made people generally aware…’ doesn’t cut it. There are unlimited reasons why participants may not want their photograph taking by ANY person, and they should have a right to decline. The only way they can decline is if they are asked directly, ‘not generally made aware’. There are no exceptions because you happen to be known by some people.

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  • @Epona

    That’s good to know. Everyone else must have agreed to have their pictures taken through the general osmosis of a staff photographer being at the event, because they’ve been to the event more than once.

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  • I really can’t stand these smug little artistes and their followers who think they don’t have to obey the rules regarding photography.

    If I find one picture of myself or a friend taken by one of these douche bags like John Curley (who magically obtained my permission by some sort of general awareness of his presence) I’m going to rip the dick a new asshole.

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  • Europha and Dancing Elf are right. Photographers at the Burning Man event need to ask permission of the participants for taking photos. Anyone who appears to be the subject of the photo should be engaged beforehand and made aware of your desire to take photos so they have the opportunity to decline. This is exactly how the rules are written for both professionals and for amateurs.

    Newbie photographers should be reading all of the same information about this in the survival guide and other documentation found on the website for first-timers.

    I spend a significant portion of my time in the Cafe educating photographers who are clearly being “snipers”.

    It’s usually clear when someone is posing for the camera and making eye contact with the lens that permission has been granted. But it never hurts to make contact with that person, if only so they know where this (hopefully great!) photo can be found later for them to point their friends at. This also confirms that you have actually been granted permission. This is the practice I recommend to most photographers and practice myself.

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