Photo Essay: Burning Man is the Real Life Version of Mad Max

If you asked a 7 year old to design their dream city, it'd be Burning Man.


September 16, 2015

Think about asking any seven year old you know to describe the coolest car they could possibly think of. It may go something like this:

“Well, first off, it wouldn’t be a car… it’d be a boat, but it could also go on land. Second, it’d have to be big enough for all my friends to come along. And because it’s a boat, naturally there would be giant sea creatures too that would chase it around. And they could probably breath fire and go really fast and be forty feet tall and there would be tons of shiny lights and fun music, but also couches where I could sleep if I got tired and lots of free candy and food for everyone.”

Now, give that kid the ability to execute their idea, multiply them by 70,000, and that is Burning Man.

Before attending, my idea of Burning Man was almost entirely pessimistic. Thanks to media saturation of negative reports, I was convinced that over-privileged techies, scenesters, and corporate influence had invaded the once eccentric festival.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

The Hustle Went to Black Rock City. This is what we saw and thought.

Five hours without traffic became sixteen as people drove through the night to reach Black Rock City.
A couple stretches their legs and checks the progress as the line creeps along.
Out in the suburbs, where the yards are much bigger.
This party is for bikes.
A performer serenades us with some Irish tunes.
At times, Black Rock City is a mirror for society. Thunderdome is an attraction built by Death Guild — a sadomasochistic collective of industrial goths — where people fight each other amidst blaring metal music and 360 degrees of barbarous onlookers. Though unique subset of the population on paper, Thunderdome became one of the most popular destinations at Burning Man. It’s amazing to see people literally climbing on one another’s backs, to get a better view of the violence. The weapons are padded, but the brutality is real.

In case you can’t make it back to your camp, you can always bunk down at a local hotel.
This is me. This is how I got around. The tricycle isn’t big, I’m just really small.
Bikers flee a dust storm.
A burner dances over the Well of Darkness.
Poi performed in front of the Firehouse.
We’re all just kids here.
Felix and Melissa climb a tower and look towards the sky. Don’t worry, we went back at night.
In 2015 the dust storms were some of the most severe and prevalent in recent history. When they strike, whiteouts occur. This couple has bunkered down and is waiting out a storm that lasted over three hours. While watching them, I noticed that whenever a big surge came, both instinctively moved to protect the other before themselves and it became clear that each cared more for their partners well being than their own.
The dried lakebed is surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Seeking shelter from the storm.
Though there are 70,000 attendees, the desert can remain a place of solitude and meditation if you choose.
Deep in the playa, about two miles away from town, you can catch a late night flick at BRC’s movie theater.
Felix recounts breaking his toe the day before while trying to jump ‘the ramp of death’ on a cheap bike with broken handle bars and an unsteady saddle. Fortunately, Black Rock City offers free health care and he was promptly put back together. He is standing in front of the Storybook house — a giant, multi-level, interactive shoe inspired by numerous fairy tales.
Felix trades a spanking for a drink.

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.