Leading up to my first Burning Man journey, I had watched countless YouTube videos, how-to’s, documentaries, read the 10 principles, studied the survival guide and formed many expectations and preconceived notions. As soon as I pulled off of the gravel highway, I realized none of that could prepare me for what I was about to experience. 2016, my first time at Burning Man was as much of a culture shock as it was a miraculous endeavor.
My primary objective was to photograph and create images that would stand the test of time, but I found it extremely difficult to even break out the cameras…I was taking it all in. Sensory overload, trying conditions, thousands of miles away from home…but I was “home” and Burning Man hadn’t even started. Luckily, I arrived 3 days early to help build our camp (DestinyLounge). It took me a few days to feel somewhat comfortable, just enough time for most of the artwork to be completed and allow for the personal interactions. While building our camp, I could witness the large structures, the artwork, the Man and the Temple being constructed, the city of 70,000 slowly coming together.
Of all of the artwork and structures, I was inexplicably drawn to the Temple, it was a massive ornate structure in the middle of the desert, being built by artist, David Best and a team of temple builders and volunteers. Nothing could really prepare me for what I was about to feel as I approached the Temple on my bike, I have never seen or experienced anything like it. From the moment you walk through the gates of the Temple, the power and emotions wash over you, there is an eerie silence amongst the chaos. You instantly know, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Walking around, reading what others are leaving behind, I quickly realized my own problems are quite small compared to the amount of pain, suffering, loss others are leaving behind…all to be burnt to ashes on the last day. I am not a writer, so it’s difficult for me to find the words to describe it, I’m not sure an experienced writer could, you really just have to experience it for yourself. After spending a few hours there, witnessing first hand the magnificent beauty of people coming together to express emotions and heal, all I could do was cry, share hugs and try to capture it. Here are some of the images I took, while observing the visitors, standing there in tears, overwhelmed with gratitude.
Fast forward to 2019, when David Best and his temple crew built a temple in Coral Springs, FL, just a 3 hour drive from Tampa. The Temple of Time was built for the victims, survivors and all of those impacted by the Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School mass shooting in Parkland. 17 people lost their lives that day, another 17 injured, a community shaken to the core, but not broken. For me, experiencing a David Best temple at Burning Man, I knew firsthand the power, the healing and sense of calm this can bring to someone consumed with loss.
I also knew that this was my opportunity to meet David Best and show him a piece of art I created for him. I’ve never met anyone else quite like David. In a few short minutes, we discussed so much, his heart is pure, he does everything in life to help others. I did not want to take away anything from the Temple of Time or his interactions with those visiting the temple, so our interaction was brief, but so very meaningful to me. I spent some time observing the community come together to heal, I read the powerful messages left by others, then I took position and waiting for the temple to burn, releasing all of the loss and pain.
As a photographer, honoring the principles of Burning Man, I gifted my artwork to him as a sincere thank you for all that he does to help others. It’s my sincere hope you have the opportunity to visit one of his temples and experience the healing and power for yourself.