Posts in photography

October 26th, 2010  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

On the Ground in the Dirt — Burning Man 2010

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

The Man and Fire Conclave burn night

We arrived Saturday afternoon under iron gray skies. It had been an effortless jaunt from Sparks; we had taken a lazy lunch in the parking lot where the weather alternated between chilly in the shadow of the clouds and blazing hot when the sun poked through. We had heard the reports: that though last week had hit 115°, this weekend promised rain, and the forbidding horizon did not dispel that fear. But we were not worried: we’re varsity. We’ve done this before.

Replicating the success of last year, we — my old friend and stalwart companion, Evan — packed little past essentials and stayed the night in a hotel in Sparks. Too tired (unmotivated?) to move our gear inside, plan “Let’s Leave it and Hope For the Best” was successful, and our pickup truck of dusty gear was unmolested in the morning. Refilling our ice chests from the free hotel ice machine, we headed to our usual supermarket to load up on water and last minute essentials (beer we had in spades; Irish cream, cup-o-noodles, eggs, cheese, crackers, some vegetables, more ice were procured) and we were off.

The Temple of Flux; us photographers all discussed how we didn’t really know how to capture it.

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September 2nd, 2010  |  Filed under Participate!

Peacetropolis!

Peacetropolis! ~ image by Ashanti Vivia - SentienZe MediA (Artist's Rendering)

On Thursday morning  these are the instructions to create the image above:

Meet @ the Man )’(  Thursday September 2nd @ 11 am.  We (Burners/art cars/buses) will extend in 4 directions to start.  Up to temple – down to center camp – down to 7:30 – down to 4:30.  Get ready for satellite flyby pix @ 11:41 am exactly!!!!! :D    Ắsḩḁŋṫi ૐ Ṽiṿiḁŋ

There is going to be a satellite photo taken of Burning Man on Thursday morning at 11:41 exactly, and this is Ashanti’s vision of creating a peace symbol for the photo.  We will let you know how it turns out!

July 13th, 2010  |  Filed under Digital Rights

Photography Without Consent: A View From Inside The Ride

[Carolyn Ellis, aka Kali, rode in the Critical Tits Ride for several years before becoming one of the principle organizers of this storied Burning Man tradition. This post is part of the Digital Rights Blog Series.]

I care deeply about camera and privacy issues on the playa.  This has not always been the case.  My first Critical Tits Ride changed all of that – no woman who enters that ride with any degree of vulnerability comes out the other end unaware of the cameras and their misuse.  To ride is to experience, and witness first hand, the cost of photography without consent.

Critical Tits Ride, 2005 (Photo by Cameragirl)

Critical Tits Ride, 2005 (Photo by Cameragirl)

To understand the harm inflicted, you must step inside the body of a woman riding topless and attempt to feel how vulnerable and courageous an act that truly is, even at Burning Man.  My greatest wish, for all who ride, is that they would be witnessed with nothing less than compassion and respect.  As a rider and now member of the CT Crew, I would like to offer a perspective from the “composition material” – those who inhabit the images taken, the riders themselves. Join me, if you would, for a perspective from inside the ride. . . .

It feels fabulous, and I mean fabulous, as a woman to ride topless on my bike!!!  No man can ever understand the freedom of a topless bike ride in a female body.  I was slipping free of the ‘rules’ of my family, culture and government – so well programmed that I thought they were my own.  A collective oppressive cloak was sliding off of my body and being powdered into playa dust by all those goddesses on bikes.  It felt so good and free.  An adventure like this would land me in jail in the default world!!  Here at BRC, it was a lyrical day on a bike.

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July 13th, 2010  |  Filed under Digital Rights

Photography is My Gift to the Community

[Neil Girling, aka mr. Nightshade, is a photographer and blogger well-known for covering the San Francisco Bay Area underground. This post is part of the Digital Rights Blog Series.]

The Man Burns, 2009

The Man Burns, 2009

Six weeks hence will again see me covered in dust, in the middle of a desert wasteland and my largest project of the year, that thing we call Burning Man. It will be the sixth year I bring out a glittering array of sparkling glass and battered camera bodies, trying to somehow make the unimaginable scale of the event fit within a small viewfinder, compressing the four dimensions of time and space (leaving out sound entirely) into a measly two, and somehow still try to convey just what it is like — near sensory overload — within a few photographs.

In 2008, I posted a few photos during the week from the tenuous WIFI connection to my website; last year, I took this up a notch and posted photos each night of the event from their respective day. With a generator running, a laptop atop the pickup and photos of the Man burning trickling up to the web at 3AM — scant hours after his immolation, and while his embers smoldered still — I hastily packed my remaining belongings to escape the mad rush of Exodus, and my photos beat me to the rest of world.

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July 12th, 2010  |  Filed under Digital Rights

Welcome to Digital Rights: Debates in the Dust

[Rosalie Fay Barnes is a consultant for the Burning Man Project, facilitating the review of current media documentation and legal policies. She also consults with Black Rock Solar, helping to develop k-12 educational materials around climate change, environmental law, and disaster responses. Rosalie earned a double Masters from the Harvard Graduate School of Education focusing on technology and cognitive development, where she worked extensively with Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, a digital rights think tank. To contact her and/or to inquire about blogging for the Digital Rights Series, email cameratales here: cameratales (at) burningman.com.]

The Media Takes Aim at Larry Harvey, 1998

The Media Takes Aim at Larry Harvey, 1998

As you may have read in the blogosphere, the Burning Man Project has been undergoing a review of legal terms related to media documentation at the event (for media references, see the link list below). And while the goal of this effort is to determine the specific legal language on the ticket and Burning Man’s Terms and Conditions, it’s really about accurately reflecting the culture and community of the Burning Man event.

Should certain on-playa activities (such as the Critical Tits Ride, for instance) be camera-free events? Should photographers be able to make a profit by selling their Burning Man photographs? If so, how much? What framework best facilitates every participant’s right to enjoy “radical self-expression” on playa in this regard? These questions are just the start of the conversation, and it’s certainly true we’ve seen quite a diversity of impassioned opinions being expressed around this highly complex, nuanced issue. (And it’s no wonder: one needn’t extrapolate too far to see how these considerations have resonance in the real world, as the dynamics of digital media are evolving quickly with advancements in technology, cyberlaw, and socio-cultural norms.)

Browsing the Free Photography Zone Gallery

Browsing the Free Photography Zone Gallery, 2006

Over the coming months, we will continue to dialogue with photographers, theme camps, artists, interested participant groups, Creative Commons and the Electric Frontier Foundation (EFF) in order to improve our policies for the present and for the future. We will be talking (if not facilitating public discussions) about this process at the Burning Man event, at the Open Video Conference in New York City (Oct 1-2, 2010), and other locations to be announced.

At the same time, we want to engage in an ongoing public dialog — a Debate in the Dust, if you will — through this blog series, featuring a diversity of representative voices sharing their perspectives on various aspects of this multifaceted issue. It should be noted that the perspectives expressed in these posts don’t necessarily reflect those of the Burning Man Project. Instead, we intend this Digital Rights blog series to be an arena for a thoughtful discussion within our community and beyond. We invite all readers’ commentary, and request that comments be constructive in nature while adhering to our Comment Policy.  Thank you for contributing to the ongoing evolution of the Burning Man project!

Wired Article: Burning Man Rethinks Its Legal Ownership of Your Photos
Burning Blog Post in Response to EFF Critiques, by Andie Grace
Electronic Frontier Foundation: Tell Burning Man To Respect Your Digital Rights
Electronic Frontier Foundation: Snatching Rights on the Playa
Boing Boing Commentary
Burning Blog Post by John Curley

May 12th, 2010  |  Filed under Digital Rights

Cameras at Burning Man: Policies for the digital age

Burning Man is trying to  figure out how to respond to the revolution in digital photography.

Old timers will tell you that cameras weren’t much in evidence in the early years of the event. But now you can’t help but see cameras everywhere on the playa –  from cellphones and point-and-shoots to expensive and sophisticated digital recording equipment that produces everything from stunningly artistic imagery to high-res but low-rent voyeuristic crap.

And the places that those pictures wind up is changing, too. Burning Man has always said it was fine to share your pictures among your friends and family. But what are friends and family these days, when you might have 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, or thousands of visitors to your Flickr or YouTube sites?

What happens to the privacy rights of, say, a schoolteacher who enjoys the freedom and empowerment of the Critical Tits bike ride? Should she have to worry when she gets back from the desert that her picture will be easy to find on the internet?

Last week, the organization gathered photographers, videographers, artists, event leaders, legal experts, technologists and just plain good thinkers to explore the ramifications of the digital revolution. Are Burning Man’s policies and procedures still up to the task of protecting privacy, preventing commercialization while still  nurturing the creative image-making process?

The discussions were heartfelt, impassioned, informed and on the whole amazingly constructive.
Much more work remains to be done, and a team of people, including the communications department and legal team, are charged with turning the talk into action items.

Here is some of what was said, plus, if you’ll forgive the intrusion, a little of what I think:

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August 14th, 2009  |  Filed under Digital Rights

“Snatching Digital Rights” or Protecting Our Culture? Burning Man and the EFF

On Wednesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a criticism of Burning Man’s ongoing efforts to protect the rights of our participants, and our efforts to forestall the creep of commercialism into the foundations of our culture.

Image by brillig, 2008

Image by brillig, 2008

Burning Man deeply respects the efforts of the EFF, and frankly, would ourselves like to embrace their opinion – but we don’t think the issue is as simple as Corynne McSherry would have you believe. Just like the EFF, we honestly seek to think outside old paradigms and boxes of “creative property” in the digital age, but we view Black Rock City through a more complicated lens, and our view of issues facing creative ownership is not rendered in extremes of black and white. To us, the rights of the individual participant to privacy while in Black Rock City in this unique environment for free expression — and our philosophical desire to maintain it out of reach of those who would exploit that expression just to sell cars or soft drinks — happens to come first.

In fact, there are but two essential reasons we maintain these increased controls on behalf of our community: to protect our participants so that images that violate their privacy are not displayed, and to prevent companies from using Burning Man to sell products.
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January 9th, 2005  |  Filed under News

Your Feedback, Our Ears And Eyes

Many thanks to everyone who sent comments to feedback(at)burningman(dot)com! We have received over 100 responses from participants. The Board Members, Senior Staff, various other production staff members and volunteers have read these emails and forwarded many to the appropriate Departments. We are in the planning stages for 2005 and are considering the great suggestions.

Because of the overwhelming number of responses, we cannot reply directly to everyone. Depending on the nature of the feedback, some participants may receive a direct response. Because, many comments touched upon similar issues, we are able to address these issues generally below.

DMV Registration
Many folks commented on the DMV registration process and related safety issues. First, the organization would like to apologize for any inconvenience that participants experienced this year. Second, please rest assured that the DMV registration process will begin earlier and the DMV department will be modified to reflect the needs of the mutant vehicle community and all other participants in 2005.

Acculturation of Newcomers
Yes, there were a large number of newcomers in 2004. As a result the event experienced some serious challenges, such as trash in the porta-potties, and some reported a dilution of the sense of community experienced by seasoned Burners. Some people perceived less evidence of unique self-expression, such as large scale art and costumes. We are in the process of discussing the numerous solutions that many of you proposed. We are considering many changes in an attempt to acculturate newcomers in 2005 and we will be asking for your support. In the meantime it is important to remember that we were all newcomers to Black Rock City once. It takes time to learn how to be a responsible participant at Burning Man. If many of this year’s newcomers return in 2005, they will come as veterans with a year’s worth of planning and inspiration under their belts.

Art
Several participants perceived less art on the playa this year. Inclement weather prevented some artists from completing their work and there were a few no-shows. Burning Man has already begun to address this issue. A proposal for more funding by our organization is in the works for 2005. Stay tuned.

Fall Town Meeting
It is our feeling that the annual Fall Town Meeting is no longer meeting its intended purpose. Accordingly, we received several emails with suggestions on how to reinvent this forum. Before discussing this further, a background of this meeting is given below.

Initially in 1997, Burning Man created the Fall Town Meeting to address some heavy issues that the organization was facing. In 1998 the same forum was used as a very successful way of exchanging ideas and recruiting volunteers. Out of it, the Spring Town meeting was created as a volunteer recruitment event and the fall Town Meeting was reserved for discussion and feedback. The Spring meeting has flourished, but the Fall meeting has served only a smaller group of Bay Area participants.

Burning Man staff decided it was time to reexamine the purpose and format of the Fall Town Meeting. The following issues surfaced:

  1. The core Burning Man community is no longer restricted to the Bay Area; but rather, is global.
  2. Many of the same basic questions and concerns are raised at the Fall Town Meeting repeatedly every year, so it yields little in the way of new information.

In order to address these issues, we solicited feedback from participants. After reviewing the suggestions, we have decided that the Fall Town Meeting is no longer automatically warranted each year. The need for this meeting will be evaluated on an annual basis. Should the meeting be held, it will be done in a way to involve the community as broadly as possible. This could likely include pre-event outreach as to the purpose, and a webcast or teleconference for remote participation.

In lieu of the meeting, the Burning Man organization has set up several feedback mechanisms for all participants to utilize in expressing ideas and feedback. The first of these is the feedback(at)burningman(dot)com email. This year the feedback email address remained active until December 31, 2004. Next year the feedback email will go live immediately after Burning Man 2005, and stay active through December 1, 2005.

Additionally, next year there will be a “Feedback on 2005″ topic on the Eplaya (Burning Man’s BBS) where participants can not only provide feedback, but also, have a dialogue with staff and other participants.

Furthermore, Burning Man staff members are interested in meeting with participants and hearing their thoughts in person during their increasing number of trips to meet with Regional groups year round. We are currently working with Regional groups and will continue to do so to set up meetings with participants when Board or Senior Staff members travel. If you would like to find out more about our regional groups please visit http://regionals.burningman.com.