The Intriguing Faces of Burning Man… Burning Man 2013

I was wandering through Center Camp when I came across this striking woman with her striking blue eyes, blond hair, and almost doll like features.

I was wandering through Center Camp when I came across this striking woman with her piercing blue eyes, blond hair, and almost doll-like features.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Department closed the gate to Black Rock City on Friday morning– Burning Man’s 2013 limit of 68,000 people had been reached. New participants would be admitted only when other participants left.

68,000 is a Super Bowl size crowd; it’s a lot of people. So who are these folks who take a week off to travel to Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert? I was curious, so I checked out the Burning Man Census data. There were some surprises.

A delightful woman from London stopped by our camp when Adios was spraying people with ice water. Her visit led Peggy and I to speculate on the number of people attending Burning Man from outside the US. Our sense was that it had increased dramatically. Turns out we were right. Preliminary 2013 census data suggests that international participation is approaching 25%.

This young man was from somewhere in the middle east. I had a hard time understanding him but I decided he was both cryptic and Coptic.

This young man was from somewhere in the Middle East. I had a hard time understanding him but I decided he was both cryptic and Coptic. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

My own blog numbers support this apparent international interest. People from 170 countries around the world have checked out my Burning Man posts.

The 2011 Census suggested something even more surprising to me: the number of Republicans participating is approaching the number of Democrats and Independents. Part of this reflects the fact that Burning Man is becoming more mainstream but it may also show that younger Republicans are taking a broader view of the world. If so, this could bode well for the future of the Party, not to mention the Country.

In the not-so-surprising column: The number of under 30 participants is close to the number of over 30 participants. (Kids and 70 plus year-olds are also present.) The majority of Burners have college and advanced degrees. The most common professions are in the computer and technological fields with a strong representation from the arts community as well.

This elderly woman was beautifully dressed. Several hundred people over 70 attend Burning Man each year.

This elderly woman was beautifully dressed. Several hundred people over 70 attend Burning Man each year.

The real story of Burning Man isn’t in numbers however; it is in the individuals.

For example, Peggy and I were at Center Camp on a quiet evening when an elderly man from Reno invited us to over to check out his art project. As a kid, James McNulty had a hobby of collecting the paper from firecrackers. Some 20 years ago he began using the papers he had collected to make collages. His hobby had turned into a passion. Eventually his works of art would be exhibited in such places as UCLA and the Pacific Art Museum.

James McNulty of Reno Nevada and his fireworks art.

James McNulty talks excitedly about his collages made from fireworks paper.

He also gave a great massage. “I know all of the pressure points,” he told us proudly. I checked out his art while Peggy checked out his massage.

Firework art by James McNulty

A close-up of James’ collage of firework paper.

While I checked out his art, James gave Peggy a neck and shoulder massage. You can tell by the contented look on Peggy's face that James knew what he was doing.

While I checked out his art, James gave Peggy a neck and shoulder massage. You can tell by the contented look on Peggy’s face that James knew what he was doing.

Burning Man is chock-full of characters like James, both young and old. It is what gives the event its unique flare.

Tom Lovering at Burning Man 2013.

I was taking a photo of dancing at the Robo-Heart mutant vehicle when suddenly Adios popped up in front of my camera. I snapped the picture.

Later we were semi-invited to a wedding where wearing black was requested. Adios didn't have ant black so his wife Punkin outfitted him. You are allowed to have multiple personalities at Burning Man.

Later we were semi-invited to a wedding where wearing black was requested. Adios didn’t have any black so his wife Punkin outfitted him. You are allowed to have multiple personalities at Burning Man.

This is Punkin, who owns a bike shop in Davis, California. She had her decorated bike in the window of the shop for the month preceding Burning Man.

This is Punkin, who owns a bike shop in Davis, California. She had her decorated bike in the window of the shop for the month preceding Burning Man. I suspect one of the dragons wandering the Playa took a bite out of her sleeve. They are always after fair maidens. 

El Diablo at Burning Man 2013.

While Tom, AKA Adios, is capable of getting into loads of mischief, I doubt he can keep up with El Diablo.

Feathers seemed to be in at Burning Man 2013. I really liked this profile shot I caught in Center Camp.

Feathers seemed to be in at Burning Man 2013. I really liked this profile shot I caught in Center Camp.

Woman in feather headdress at Burning Man 2013

I found this feathered woman out on the Playa.

This couple from the band, Interstellar Transmissions, came walking by our camp dragging their drums behind them.

This couple from the band, Interstellar Transmissions, came walking by our camp pulling their drums behind them. Note the ET hand print. Later I found the drum set parked next to Center Camp…

Drumset from the band Interstellar transmissions at Burning Man 2013.

The cymbals reminded me of flying saucers, which tied in with the year’s theme.

Peggy caught this photo of me petting a vulture out near the fence on the edge of the Playa. Shortly afterward, I go in trouble with the law for climbing over the fence. But that's a story for another blog.

Peggy caught this photo of me petting a vulture out near the fence on the edge of the Playa. Shortly afterward, I got in trouble with the law for climbing over the fence. But that’s a story for another blog.

Not to leave you with an image of me patting a vulture, here's Peggy at Center Camp with flowers a floral head piece that had just been given to her.

Not to leave you with an image of me petting a vulture, here’s Peggy at Center Camp with a floral head-piece that had just been given to her. The necklace was also a gift.

Next Blog: I will feature what I consider to be one of the top art pieces in the history of Burning Man: Truth Is Beauty by Marco Cochrane of Mill Valley, California.

9 comments on “The Intriguing Faces of Burning Man… Burning Man 2013

  1. Republicans at Burning Man … say it ain’t so. Pretty much all I know about BM is what I’ve read on your posts. And from what I’ve read, the increase in GOP attendees is a surprise to me as well. And as you say, it can only be a good thing, unless they were passing out party pamphlets. BTW, great people shots. ~James

    • It does indeed seem strange, James… Republicans as closet Burners. What next? Thanks for you comment on the people shots. Burning Man is indeed a place to catch characters. (including me) –Curt

  2. Every shot better than the previous.. such happy, smiling faces all uniting for a week of adventure. Seems like so much fun. I can’t choose a favorite pic, all are great. My camera would be going crazy snapping pictures. I shudder to think how many you and Peggy took..
    Peggy is muy bonita in her flower headband!!

  3. The first thing I thought of when I saw Peggy with her yellow flowers was “If you’re going to San Francisco, you’d better wear some flowers in your hair..” And I love the vulture – a culture vulture?

    As for the rest – shoot. Why wouldn’t the ruralistas, the rubes and the R-party sorts show up at Burning Man? It’s not so different from getting down on the farm with The Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band!

    • Peggy chuckled at the SF reference. As for the vulture, there will be more. 🙂 Along with aliens and the fence at the end of the earth.

      Jumped on the Big Damn Band. Looked lie a Burning Man experience to me. Quite fun. –Curt

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