Trey Ratcliff’s 30 Favorite Photos from Burning Man

BULLETIN: I have a few Burning Man pieces going up at an auction soon to raise money for other artists. 100% of the money goes to Burning Man artists (not me, even though I am technically a Burning Man artist). You can attend the event in San Francisco via the Artumnal Gathering website. Remote bidding is available too, so you can take part in the auction here.

My 30 Top Photos from 2018’s Burning Man – I Robot

This was year number eight in a row for me, but every year feels like the first. This was a very cruizey year for me. No problems… smooth as silk all around, which is something I never really expect. Rene and Jonatas were two awesome roommates with great energy the whole time. I swear to god we have never laughed so much in our lives!

Also, I had many personal revelations and artistic breakthroughs. It sounds a bit too solipsistic to describe these in detail, but, they were amazing! I’m already a high-energy positive guy, but the event really takes me to the next level. And everything I see inspires me for the other 51 weeks a year. I’m so humbled by all the incredible art and all the awesome people out there.

I took over 8,000 photos this year and wanted to share my favorite 30! Feel free to share with friends and loved ones. We had another great photo walk and over 280 signed up for the Facebook event. But only half were able to stumble out there after doing god-knows-what. But it was still an amazing event that even included a proposal while thousands of photos were being taken!

Anyway, if you like what you see, you can see my Burning Man Album of favorites for the last 8 years.

Or you can see 200+ more photos from Burning Man 2018.

If you or your art is in any of the photos, feel free to email [email protected] for the full-sized file. 🙂 I do not currently sell prints for Burning Man, but there are other options over at TreyRatcliff.com.

Enjoy!

#30: “Embracing while we let go as the temple burns”

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A crystalline hug at Burning Man , 2018.

#29: “Black Witch of the Desert”

Black Witch of the Desert

Everyone at Burning Man is in costume all week long while the event is going on. I remember in his first year, my friend Rene was wearing just like regular clothes from The Gap when he went to Center Camp. Let’s just say that it didn’t go smoothly for him, but it rarely does anyway. This is my friend Linnea Berzen, she puts in a little more effort than Rene for sure.

#28: “Two Days before the Great Train Wreck”

Two Days before the Great Train Wreck

This is called the “Great Train Wreck” and on Thursday night, the two trains smashed together in quite the spectacle.

#27: “Blind Yoga”

Blind Yoga

Here is Kate Swarm, one of the yoga teachers at the camp. This year she brought her 9 and 10-year-olds. That’s a great age to bring kids out here… I think in eight years of going, I never have seen a teenager (14-20 or so). I’ve always kind of wondered why that is… but I think that age is such a crazy time for the ego to develop that most are embarrassed and overly consumed with what everyone else is thinking about them (hey, it’s the same way with a lot of adults… see Instagram). Anyway, Kate here is wearing this awesome mask (like a one-way mirror where you can only see out) that was made by my friend at CrypticNine.

#26: “Ambulances arrive at the Thunderdome”

Ambulances arrive at the Thunderdome

There are fights every night in the Thunderdome at Death Guild. My neighbor, Julie, is actually part of Death Guild and she would come back every night with the grisly injury reports. Ambulances are common. Cleanly broken wrists, eye gouges, man, you name it.

#25: “Watch Out!”

Watch Out!

Ride… RIDE!!!

#24: “Makeup”

Makeup

A lady puts on her makeup outside on a dusty mirror outside her tent before burn night.

#23: “Our camp’s art cars”

Our camp's art cars

Here’s a collection of cars from our camp, Camp Walter. We’re in line here for the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). My friend George says there are over 800 cars that go through the DMV every year to get clearance to drive around the playa. There’s a huge history behind each of the vehicles in this photo. Much of it centers around the big VW bus, Walter, as a material instantiation symbolizing the concept of second chances.

#22: “Carrots should be afraid”

Carrots should be afraid

At the Billion Bunny March, some of these carrots are smart to be afraid of some of these bunnies.

#21: “A Lonely Walk to the Airport”

A Lonely Walk to the Airport

One day I went out to the airport at Burning Man to try to register my drone. It was a really windy day and a lot of people were hunkered down. The airport is quite a long way away, so it’s always a bit of a fun mission. There’s sort of a desolate place in between Black Rock City and the airport where I saw this guy.

#20: “I Have Dust”

I Have Dust

There were a lot of awesome windstorms at Burning Man this year that kicked up all sorts of interesting scenes. Some people chose to stay inside during the storms, but I almost always jumped on my bike to see what clever stuff I could find.

#19: “The Temple”

The Temple

The beautiful temple from above. Every year it is a new design… this one was one of my favorites.

#18: “Trees grow out of air”

Trees grow out of air

On Saturday night, the party and the fire keep going all night long. This was taken about 15 minutes after the man fell down and was being consumed. The burning reminds me of this wonderful little physics nugget from Richard Feynman. This might be from his book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. Anyway, he makes a nice description that trees don’t grow out of the ground, but they mostly grow out of the air. They get a few nutrients and some water and stuff from the ground, but 99% of the meat of the tree is made from carbon. The leaves grab the carbon dioxide and then use the sun to slice off the C from the O2. It hangs on to the carbon and it becomes the wood. The tree then gets rid of the O2 because it is waste. Later, we take that wood and make it super-hot with fire, which makes the carbon re-connect with the oxygen, creating carbon dioxide once again. And then the cycle starts all over as it floats over to a nearby tree to go through it all again. All that fire, then, can be seen as stored sunlight. Anyhoo… that’s the kind of stuff I read! Haha… you can probably search on YouTube for “Feynman Tree Growing out of Air” and see more. He has so many great little physics thoughts like that. Wow, I really end up boring whoever sits by me on burn night.

#17: “The Mirror Ball at Night”

The Mirror Ball at Night

The Orb at Night. Me, Rene, and Jô would end up here almost every night, just staring at the spherical reflection of the unreal world around us.

#16: “A Walk in the Park”

A Walk in the Park

Out of the 8,000 photos I took, I’ll probably only publish 20-30 on social media. I end up adding the rest to my overall Burning Man portfolio. By the way, most of those 8,000 photos are complete garbage! I usually try a lot of different things until something works… so 98% of those are utter failures!

#15: “The Dissolution of the Ego”

The Dissolution of the Ego

On Day 6 of Burning Man (always a Saturday night), we burn down the man himself. Everyone kind of takes their own meaning into it, or perhaps no meaning at all. For me, it’s a reminder that the dissolution of the ego is the greatest creative gift one can give oneself.

#14: “Book Club”

Book Club

Here’s Baba Yagas Book Club by Jessi Sprocket Janusee. You can’t have a book club in the desert without some robotic chicken legs holding it up!

#13: “She Flies”

She Flies

Flying in the wind… One of the cool things about the flat, dried out lakebed at Burning Man is the sizeable mountains that surround it on all sides. They form a really nice background for certain kinds of shots like these.

#12: “Boring”

Boring

#Boring

#11: “Burning Man Hugs are the Best”

Burning Man Hugs are Best

This is called, “In every lifetime, I will find you”.

#10: “Dinner Time”

Dinner Time

This reminds me that some of the best ideas for art out there are the most simple: Giant Human Puppets, Enormous Mirror Ball, Green Tree, Dock… Moon.

#9: “Our Female Overlords”

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I finally got these Japanese robots to stand still in formation.

#8: “Temple Sunrise”

Temple Sunrise

Higher up this page I shared a photo of the beautiful temple from above. Here’s what it looks like from the ground during sunrise.

#7: “Henry Chang’s Supercar”

Henry Chang's Supercar

There are about one hundred different art cars rolling around at Burning Man after they are approved by the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). This one is absolutely incredible, made by Henry Chang. I didn’t even need to ask if he’s a fan of H.R. Giger. Sometimes, you’ll go an entire week without seeing certain cars… they appear like unicorns… but I got lucky on night number eight at the propane burn off.

#6: “On 9 o’clock at noon”

On 9 o'clock at noon

Another random happening I found while pedaling on my own bike down 9 o’clock on the way to 3 o’clock.

#5: “Time to Get a Brazilian”

Time to Get a Brazilian

A Brazilian lady visits the statue called “In every lifetime I will find you”. Luckily, I had Jô Eridani (he does all the web development for us here), who is also from Brazil, to do all the translation. I first made Jônatas stand like that to show her… I didn’t take a photo of him because he looked absolutely ridiculous. But he quite likes that as you can see in his Barbie photo on his social media.

#4: “Good, Clean Family Fun”

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After the photo walk ar Burning Man (thanks again everyone for coming!), I went out on a mission to rescue my broken bike that became a bit addled halfway through the walk. I had to abandon it to keep the Lawrence of Arabia mission moving forward! Anyway, it was pitch black when I went to go find it, but it was a good mission. It’s fun to have missions out there, even if they are silly ones. Anyway, I finally found it and was returning to camp when I saw this awesome family. I dug out my camera and took a quick one for them. Every year there are over 1,000 kids that come out with their parents… I did this about seven years ago when I brought out Ethan and Tina, but I don’t think we could have talked Ethan into wearing angel wings… but we probably could talk Isabella and Scarlett into it quite easily!

#3: “The Mayan Warrior Tractor Beam”

The Mayan Warrior Tractor Beam

Here’s an alien tractor beam at the mighty Mayan Warrior melting down the mirror orb. I went up top and met the awesome Pablo Gonzalez Vargas who gave me a little tour and some wonderful, special gifts. We got to play with all the lasers and the flames and do all kinds of fun stuff. We’re all just big kids up there!

#2: “A White Witch in the Desert”

A White Witch in the Desert

Randomly, by chance, I saw my friend Linnea Berzen twice out in the desert. It’s almost impossible to have a set meeting anywhere out there because mobile phones don’t really work. This year we were smart and left a little whiteboard outside the RV so people could leave messages. Some anonymous girl wrote how attractive Rene was, and he took about 100 mobile phone photos of that, having reached peak-Rene. I take a LOT of people photos there, and for this year, this one might be my favorite.

#1: “In every lifetime I will find you.”

In every lifetime, I will find you

Who will you find in every lifetime? This is the last photo I took at Burning Man this year. You probably won’t believe me, but I had a transcendent vision of this four nights prior, two days before I even discovered this place. If I were to try to describe either what I saw or how I was in a state to envision it, you would probably think I am crazy. But I told my roommates the next morning what I saw, and then I emailed them this photo a few days later and they were like HOLY CRAP. If I ever meet you in person, I can try to describe the whole experience. I’m not sure I can, but I know it was real.

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