“Thank you for documenting this experience with me.” “I’m excited to see this party through your eyes.” These are just a couple examples of expressions that simply aren’t heard at large mainstream festivals. They are phrases that warm my heart.
Late in the festival I left the main stage to take a break just as the last of the sun’s light was peeking over the mountains. That’s when I came across a man named Rusty who was in the middle of building the fire sculpture from the photo above. I shared a moment with Rusty that I feel captures a cardinal theme for these types of events. Upon completion of his sculpture, he closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. I sat across from him in the sand, cross-legged with my chin leaning against the top of my camera, also with my eyes closed. We stood slowly and I showed him the photograph I had taken. He proceeded to tell me about the great pleasure he gets from doing something he loves that is then captured by someone who is also doing what they love. And therein lie the special moments that we strive to illustrate as photographers, trying to show, for a quick instant, the true pleasure behind someone else’s eyes. What I stumbled across in Apple Valley was probably the most uniquely satisfying thing I’ve done by myself in a long time. Bouncing my aging Mazda five miles down a narrow dirt road in the middle of the California High Desert packed with a newly purchased REI tent, my trusty DSLRs, and a wide-brimmed SoCal sun hat, I took my first steps to the dry, crunchy sand with instant welcoming handshakes and hugs from my new neighbors who were baring enough hippie garb to make any Woodstock alumnus jealous. This was Suspended in a Sunbeam, and man, that’s certainly what it felt like. I am so happy that I was able to be a part of it, and for less than $80, too! For that price and a quick email confirming no formal camera policy, it was an easy sell. Even though my time in the desert was limited to less than 24 hours it cemented the fact that I will, at some point, deem myself ready for Burning Man. I arrived mid-afternoon Saturday parking my campsite surprisingly close to the second “live band” stage (which was playing some groovy Opiuo glitch-funk to segue between bands). There’s a certain sense of underlying camaraderie upon first arrival that is never felt at most mainstream EDM festivals. This is intimate, and fabulous. It’s free-spirited, and non-conformist. It’s a culture that encourages exploration of body and mind through music, art, and a willingness to open yourself to our fellow humans. While most festivals struggle to keep garbage and litter at bay, transformational festivals focus on the idea of leaving the world a little better than we found it (no trace camping). An event with those values brings the best crowd. “We believe that our collective time on this planet is valuable and our efforts to improve as a species must be preserved through harmony and cooperation. In that spirit, we come together to celebrate the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts: humanity.” This festival brought me to conversations with some of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and with Electric Forest just around the corner I couldn’t be more excited for what’s coming up, and the people I’ll meet!