Burning Man 2009 in Pictures

Take a look at the bizarre festival that inspires 45,000 people to travel to the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

141 photos
Alex Matthews
A giant interactive Rubik's Cube was on hand at the Burning Man art, music and community festival in the Black Rock Desert the week of August 31 to September 7, 2009. There were three little stations (you can see one glowing under the cube to the left) with six buttons users could push to try to work together to complete the cube.
NBC Universal/ "Harry"
One of the workers from the Neverwas Haul stands in front of the "self-propelled 3-story Victorian House made from 75% recycled equipment and materials." The Neverwas Haul is 24 feet long and tall and 12 feet wide. http://neverwashaul.com/
Alex Matthews
This beautiful metal sculpture of spinning butterfly wings is called, "Portal of Evolution" by Bryan Tedrick (www.bryantedrick.com) from Glen Ellen, CA. The sculpture is based on the female reproductive system with steel fallopian tubes and ovaries under the kinetic wings. It is 26 feet tall and 32 feet wide and super fun to stand at the top of!
Josh Keppel
J Crush works the DPW fueling depot where she gives sanctioned artists fuel for their fire art. Here she fills some gas cans for the Flamethrower Shooting Gallery.
Josh Keppel
A taxi rolls by the Man.
This couple was spotted on one of the streets posing for photos and I couldn't resist and had to get in on the action. Luckily for them, the sun wasn't blazing.
Alameda County Sheriff's Office
My pregnant wife, Amy Berger, shows her "half-way there" baby bump in front of "Who Gave Birth" an "art installation [that] is a celebration of all MOM's, and the feminine energy that comprises the true understanding that the original MOM is The Earth." Laura Kimpton and her Celtic Forest crew from Nicasio, CA built the sculpture.
Josh Keppel
Cassidy Wollenburg hands me the last slice of freshly cooked sausage over the shoulder of Erick Betancourt. Look at those fingers! Good thing I'm not a germaphobe...
Josh Keppel
Bikes are essential at Burning Man, where one can ride miles in a day getting from here to there. If you bike is "artified," all the better. This guy had a super cool fish bike.
Josh Keppel
Sgt. Slaughter, a member of the DPW (Department of Public Works) shows off her laminates, that get her ice, food, and showers during the event. DPW folks are the ones who build the infrastructure of the city getting there weeks early and staying weeks late to clean up so we can do it again next year.
The Wedge was one of the most talked about, feared and loved art installations at Burning Man 2009. When you saw people with bandaged arms, you know they went through the "Human Cheese Grater" (as John John called it), a 30' tall x 24' wide x 72' long slide of AstroTurf that was great fun. www.wedgeproject.org
Josh Keppel
Hookadomer Soren Curry stands in front of his Magic Carpet art car just before the sun pops up in the morning sky.
Fatima Kelley
Some silver space people hang out near the Raygun Gothic Rocketship, a 40' tall metal rocketship with gantry launch tower out of Oakland, CA by Sean Orland, Nathaniel Taylor, David Shulman, and John Manyjohns. http://www.raygungothicrocket.com/
Josh Keppel
This year's temple was called "Fire Of Fires" and it had a 32' tall vertical tube of polycarbonate sheeting that had a tornado of flame shoot through the center of it. Unfortunately for me, I never got to see that. The temple was beautiful enough without the inner flame, especially at sunset.
Getty Images
Key Note is a sculpture by Oakland's Michael Christian and is a figure made entirely of locks from doors, cabinets, chests, cars, bikes, pads, you name it. The figure drags one giant key, with thousands of keys making up the space between the hand and the key on the ground.
Josh Keppel
A view of the city from above on Saturday, September 5, 2009 as a white-out of dust and wind hit the open playa.
Josh Keppel
Chimera Sententia, aka Fish Bug, by Rebecca Anders and Jessica Hobbs of San Francisco is described as "a creature of indeterminate origin out of sync with time and place greets participants; a hybrid expressing a point where evolutionary paths cross. Its body represents a timeline of evolution, from the beginning spark of life to a vision of future possibilities seen within its illuminated head."
NBC 5 News
The inside of the Fish Bug is woven fabric, creating a protective interior for spectators to lean against.
Josh Keppel
College friends Jimmy Kudrik (left) from New York, NY and Todd Pironis (Goat Boy) from Sydney, Australia met up at Black Rock City for their first trip to Burning Man together.
Getty Images
Cubatron L5 is an amazing light display that from a far, looks like a massive video screen with dancing colors and images, but up close, there about 5,000 plastic golf balls with colored LED lights inside making up the 8' x 40' sculpture of light. This year, the lights were set up so that people could lay underneath and watch as the lights flashed on and off cycling through the colors of the rainbow.
Soma, by the Flaming Lotus Girls of San Francisco, "translates the anatomy of neurons into metal, fire and light; magnifying the microscopic world to an epic scale."
Josh Keppel
This was my favorite piece of art on the playa this year. I loved the changing colored light, the interactive fire element where participants could get hands on with the fire effects, as well as the organic nature of the piece. Very cool!
Josh Keppel
This piece, called Fire Spinner, had two circular fireplaces that participants could rotate at the end of a long axle. As the flaming wood, paper and dried compost would drop inside each of the two cages, sparks would come streaming out.
Josh Keppel
I'm not sure what this piece was called or who built it, but the colored lights were fun to stand on and hop from one to another.
Josh Keppel
Duane Flatmo's Kinetic Sculpture the Tin Pan Dragon from Eureka, CA makes another appearance at Burning Man. To see more of this sculpture and others like it, search this site for the Kinetic Sculpture Race, a 3-day human powered "Triathlon of the Art World."
Josh Keppel
Art cars rally for an afternoon art tour, where hundreds of people get shuttled around to look at different art pieces, often hearing from the artists themselves.
Josh Keppel
Burning Man is the ultimate venue for D.I.Y. costumery. This woman told me that her husband helped her make this top saying, "he drank all the beer, I just sewed the caps on."
Josh Keppel
The weather was very mild this year, with days not getting nearly as hot as in past years, and many nights being warm enough to wear your daytime outfits right through the night. There were a few sprinkles on Monday, but these clouds on Wednesday afternoon never produced anything more than some welcomed shade from the desert sun.
Josh Keppel
Karen Kuehn set up shop near Center Camp where her assistant would pull people in from off the street to fill out a questionnaire about why they are a great "Catch" and then pose for a roll of film. She also took shots of couples making out and was up at 5 a.m. each day to shoot in the morning light.
Alex Matthews
Kuehn has been a photographic artist for the past 22 years and was once penned photography's Georgia O'Keeffe. She brought these books of her work with her for her first trip to Burning Man so people could see the great company they were in when Kuehn pointed her camera at them.
Josh Keppel
Burning Man has a Media Mecca area set up for visiting journalists where they help you out as much as they can. This was the first year I participated as a journalist, and it was fun getting to see and visit with the other photographers and writers from around the world.
Alex Matthews
Newsroom clocks on the wall of Media Mecca with missing tops, just like the map of Burning Man (as seen on the top middle clock).
James Ham
The Man, the myth, the legend, the icon, the trademark.
Josh Keppel
The structure below the Man this year blew doors off of anything else that has been done before. It brought back memories of 2006's "Uchronia (Message From the Future)," otherwise known as the "Belgian Waffle."
Josh Keppel
This piece had two large eggs inside a nest of metal pipes, that people could climb up and shake around.
Josh Keppel
Here's a close up look at the head of Key Note, with the just visible keyhole face.
Josh Keppel
The figure was captured struggling to drag one large key, possibly the one the unlocks his face?
Josh Keppel
The 'rope' between the figure and the key was made up of hundreds if not thousands of keys.
Josh Keppel
Michael Christian of Oakland made Key Note "entirely of entirely of locks - padlocks, door locks, cabinet and chest locks, car locks, bike locks, locks, locks, locks. Locks we use to secure all we find of value or feel the need to protect. The world as we create and understand it."
Josh Keppel
A bee art car sits idle what the driver and passenger hang out at "The Wedge."
Josh Keppel
The Wedge was a 30 foot tall slide that was covered in AstroTurf and people of all ages would climb up and slide down, over and over again. Kids especially loved it! Here you can see one standing on a boogie board behind her Mom on the left and another kid hiking up the ramp next to them.
Josh Keppel
Groups of people could slide down together. These guys had "H.E.L.L.O." t-shirts on which made for a funny sight as they slid down the slide.
EFE / Getty Images
A group from New York City built the Wedge. They wanted to have an area to do aerialist work, so they put a slide on top of it to give them shade, and give the citizens of Black Rock City something fun to do. You can barely make out someone hanging under on the right side of the structure.
Josh Keppel
One of my old time burner friends said that this was their favorite piece on the playa because it embodied old-school Burning Man sculptures what are kind of funky and very home made. You could crawl inside the back of the bunny and stand inside a little room full of mirrors.
Josh Keppel
You can find just about anything at Burning Man that you can find in the real world (except for sparkly clean people). Here's a neighborhood bar with a pool table.
Josh Keppel
Here a group plays some basketball.
Doug Mangum
Here is a sign one bar put up asking for help stocking the bar. Each year, by the end of the week there is usually plenty of booze to be had, but the mixers almost always run out.
Josh Keppel
Many people you meet at Burning Man have "playa names." This woman called herself "Sticky Sweet" and she had a little electrical paddle that she would approach any guy wearing a skirt or Utilikilt and ask if she could "shock their junk." As luck would have it, I had borrowed my friends Utilikilt that day and I haven't quite felt the same since...
Josh Keppel
Many people set up beautiful, elaborate chill spaces to hide out in getting away from the afternoon sun. Here Steamy 'chilaxes' in Laura Kimpton's amazing domain.
Josh Keppel
The American bacon craze doesn't stop at the gates of the event. In fact, the first time I realized that bacon was such an amazing and loved food was at Burning Man years ago. The salty meat replaces some of what is lost as your body sweats from the hot sun. Here Christian Yuhas cooks up a bunch of meat in his old Chinese wok.
Josh Keppel
Walking around with a plate full of bacon to hand out is a sure way to put smiles on faces.
Josh Keppel
Some camps are very organized and have camp fees, chores, and events. Burning Man celebrity artist Dan Das Mann's camp had all of this and more (like private bathrooms and multiple kitchens), but I was most impressed with their ice machine. Wow. (I didn't see a parachute with a ladder though... maybe next year?)
Josh Keppel
This was the best year yet for the porta potties. Every time I used one it was clean, with plenty of TP. Signs like these on the inside of the bathroom doors help to remind people of what to do and not to do when it comes to bathroom etiquette.
Telemundo / Mezcalent
Mutant Vehicles are automobiles that have been transformed for the playa. They have to go to the D.M.V. (Department of Mutant Vehicles) to get checked out before being able to operate, and some come back year after year. Pictured is one of two full size articulating Muni busses that have been transformed into a thumping mobile nightclub.
Josh Keppel
On a smaller, yet no less impressive scale, this mutant vehicle is from VW Bus Camp where VW gear heads can gather to compare rides and camp together.
Josh Keppel
Burning Man bling and schwag is everywhere on the playa. Many people thought this year was one of the best with beautiful necklace pendants being freely handed out all over the place. This woman pins on a button of a button onto the coat of Shannon O'Hare, Captain of the Neverwas Haul.
Josh Keppel
Dusty Dog proudly holds up one of the pendents he made for Laura Kimpton's Mom project featuring a beautifully rendered Celtic Forest raven.
Josh Keppel
Zac Carroll does some refueling to the tractor hauling the "Front Porch," an awesome front porch complete with a house interior on the other side...
Josh Keppel
What'd I tell you? I even saw the sink work! Too cool...
Getty Images
Amber-Marie Bently and Christopher Bently renewed their vows on Wednesday night at the Temple. The Neverwas Haul picked up the wedding party to take them to the site.
Josh Keppel
Garage Mahal followed the Neverwas Haul with the rest of the wedding attendees.
Josh Keppel
An engine from the 1940s powers the Neverwas Haul.
Josh Keppel
Garage Mahal follows the Neverwas Haul out to the Temple at sunset.
Josh Keppel
Christoper Bently and Amber-Marie Bently walk towards the Temple to renew their wedding vows in front of their Burning Man friends and family.
Mark Oltz
After the "I Do's," a special pyrotechnic display went off courtesy of Dusty Dog.
On Sunday night, the Temple burns in a somber, quiet ceremony, quite the opposite of Saturday night's burning of the Man.
Josh Keppel
One of my favorite things about the temple burns are the dust devils, little tornadoes of wind and dust set off by the heat of the fire.
NBC Bay Area
NBC News
Super sweet mobile sound system!
Josh Keppel
A bicyclist rides towards a dust cloud.
This year I helped out at the Flamethrower Shooting Gallery where "You Too Can Burn the Man" by shooting flaming gasoline at one of four metal figures emulating the icon of Burning Man.
The Man sits above the most interesting and creative man base in years.
Josh Keppel
Friday night, September 4, 2009 saw a full moon over the playa, providing lots of light keeping darkwads everywhere safe.
Josh Keppel
The backyard of Root Society (aka. Seizure Dome) was full of very cool tepees.
Josh Keppel
Burning Man works on a 'Gift Society' where everyone is encouraged to bring something to give to everyone else. An exception is made for ice since you can't really bring enough of that to last you a week. You can buy a bag or block for $3 each, or a six-pack for $15 (like this guy). For some reason, coffee is also sold at Center Camp (boo).
Josh Keppel
The Mind Shaft Society is located right next to Arctica (where the ice is sold). In exchange for their primo location, they had to endure the shenanigans of the crazy, loud ice workers all day long. Poor guys...
Josh Keppel
On Friday afternoon, Critical Tits parades through the city, snarling traffic with thousands of beautiful topless women. Something tells me inconvenienced SF drivers wouldn't be so angry if Critical Mass was sans shirts.
Ever wanted to see what it's like to climb a firetruck ladder? Here's your chance to climb up to the top and ring a triangular dinner bell. Unfortunately, I didn't stick around to wait for this lady to come down... next year.
Josh Keppel
I felt like there was a much better, more diverse sampling of music at Black Rock City this year. There was more good, live music than I'd seen before, (even though I missed the Church of Funk reunion ~ darn it). I did catch an awesome set by Live Evil!
Josh Keppel
At sunset on Friday night, Live Evil played to a packed geodesic dome.
Josh Keppel
Lucy Hosking plays Satan's Calliope, a flaming organ on wheels.
Josh Keppel
The booklet of events handed out at the gate showed that world famous duo Daft Punk was headlining a gig at Club Verboten on Thursday night. It was a hoax, with thousands of people cramming the narrow city streets for blocks streaming towards the camp with smiles and going away with frowns.
Josh Keppel
Sunday night at Hookadome was no hoax though, with Thievery Corporation plopping down their laptops and plugging in for a perfect last night of the festival.
Josh Keppel
On Friday night, winds kicked up for the first time of the event, delaying the Raygun Gothic Rocketship launch for about two hours.
Getty Images/Digital Vision
Nathaniel Taylor (left) and Sean Orlando wait for the winds to die down so they can watch their Rocketship get blasted off from every direction.
Josh Keppel
Freddie Martinez rides on the back of one art car while another slides in just behind him as the sun starts to rise behind the temple on Saturday morning.
Telemundo Chicago
The full moon hovers above the mountains as the sun starts to rise over East Black Rock.
Getty Images
This orange fence is called the "trash fence" and it is all that separates Burning Man from the rest of the world (well, kind of). Art cars head out to the Eastern most portion of the deep playa (a few miles from town) to watch the sun come up most mornings.
Brian Rodriguez
Many photographers wake up before sunrise to hit the open playa to take pictures of art and people in the "Golden Hour." I, on the other hand, like to stay up in a sleep deprived haze and shoot the photographers shooting the art. Here Wade Scribner takes a picture of his camp's art car, "The Ghost of the Lady Washington."
My birthday is September 4, so I often celebrate it at Burning Man. As the sun came up on Saturday morning, I said, "Well, I guess it is officially not my birthday anymore, now that the sun is up to mark another day." Just then I looked across the playa to see a giant "Happy Birthday" cake art car rambling towards the trash fence. One last present... thanks Burning Man!
Jason Clay
Telemundo Chicago
The Pope helps himself to some art car jungle juice.
Josh Keppel
You decide... Is the Pope a) offering a drink from the sacred chicken challis, b) blessing this wayward soul, or c) posing for a photo?
Josh Keppel
Magic Carpet flies away.
Josh Keppel
Steamboat run aground in a dried out lake bed.
Josh Keppel
Two people hold hands walking from the Temple to the Man as the sun lifts above the horizon on Saturday morning, hours before the Man is to be burnt.
Cynthia Espinoza
This tractor was living about a block away from me and I thought it looked really cool. I never saw it out of it's parking spot, but I love the WMDs on the back...
Josh Keppel
WMD 03 & 04 in the house.
Associated Press
A speed boat on wheels zips across the playa in the early morning hours. Behind it the massive Rubik's Cube can be seen in the distance.
Josh Keppel
A beautiful woman climbs down the side of "Portal of Evolution."
Josh Keppel
The Nowhere Omnibus was shipped over here from London, England where the European burners (mostly Brits) got the idea to set up Black Rock City's first ever public transportation route with scheduled stops to get citizens around town.
Josh Keppel
Cool Rino car. Many art cars look good in the day, or at night. This one looked cool around the clock.
Tarena Gibbs
Landscape shot with two people looking at themselves in the wall of mirrors with Root Society, Neverwas Haul and Portal of Evolution, and a row of porta potties all visible in the distance.
City of Southlake
Burning Sky was set up at 5:00 and G(enome), right across the street from my camp. I had no idea what it was, until I was walking to the bathroom Saturday afternoon and a Burning Skier asked if my wife and I had plans for the next hour...
Josh Keppel
Once inside the shade structure, I realized that Burning Sky was in charge of the airport built at the edge of Black Rock City. Here is the ticket office where you sign your rights away and check in for your flight.
NBC Bay Area
Skydivers can be seen falling from the sky all day long during the week of the festival. They buy tokens from Burning Sky before the event for about $40 each that they can use to get on a plane, or give to a friend to let them take a ride and watch.
Josh Keppel
This is the airport shuttle that takes sky divers and passengers out for their flights.
Matt Maiocco
Our flight had one jumper, and nine passengers/observers. Here we walk across the tarmac to our plane.
Fotos: EFE
Air traffic control tower at Black Rock City Municipal Airport keeps everyone in the sky and on the ground safe.
Stephanie Garza
Each of us had to put on a parachute, just in case. Thankfully, only the jumper needed to use his. We all made it back to the ground safe and sound with chutes still in the bag.
Samantha Port
The pilot flew us around the dried out lake bed that makes up Black Rock Desert, lifting up over the Western mountain range before leveling off over the city.
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office
The Rooster takes a look out of the window mid-flight.
Josh Keppel
BRC in the distance off the tip of the wing as we fly over the mountains.
Josh Keppel
The plane has room for 10 passengers, and as long as one jumper wants to go, the rest of the plane can be filled with passengers. Most of us were pulled off the street and minutes later were on this plane.
Josh Keppel
Here is a good view of Black Rock City on Saturday afternoon, when white-outs were whipping through the open playa. I like the six o'clock line of dust starting at the edge of the city and going right through Center Camp, the Man, and the Temple.
Chuck Jones
Ephraim Schwartz is the man! Not only for being the one guy who actually jumped out of the plane, but thanks to him we all got to go up. Thanks Ephraim!
Josh Keppel
A shot of my side of the world.
Scott Wisniewski
Ephraim Schwartz of Lake Tahoe straps on his helmet camera and prepares to jump. He told me he'd be jumping out of planes for about three-and-a-half years, and shooting video of them for only the last few months.
Josh Keppel
With a quick "Later guys" before my camera and flash could recycle Schwartz was out the door. You can just barely see his feet at the bottom of this frame.
Josh Keppel
After Schwartz jumped, the pilot shut the door ( with a push of a button from the cockpit) and he turned the plane almost totally upside down and did a crazy dive straight towards the ground. This face was the sentiment of all of us.
Josh Keppel
Amazingly, five minutes after we got dropped off back at Burning Sky, our jumper Ephraim Schwartz came strolling up. Too funny! He parachuted down and walked back in the same amount of time it took us to land and drive back. Perfect ending to a great experience!
Lovell Williams
Four boy scouts carried long polls with marshmallows on the end looking for big flames ripe for roasting.
Obon Jones
The boy scouts then spotted Duane Flatmo's Tin Pan Dragon...
Josh Keppel
...a battle ensued with the dragon snapping at the polls and the boy scouts doing all they could to hang in there to slay the beast. It looked like a fully choreographed routine that had been rehearsed ahead of time, but it was totally spontaneous.
After the battle, the dragon gave it up and the boy scouts got to the roasting.
House of Torment
At about 11 p.m., about two hours late due to high winds and dust, the fireworks started and the man was on his way, hands raised welcoming his demise.
John Audley
There was a massive explosion that surprised everyone towards the end of the fireworks show.
Kathy Lee
At one point, the leg shot some fireworks out as the flames were raging around the Man.
Josh Keppel
It took a VERY long time for the man to fall, almost an hour.
During the Man burning, an ambulance came right down the six o'clock road. I wanted to include these pictures to show that there is great medical help at the event, with multiple medical tents with fully staffed volunteer medics.
Josh Keppel
Medics aren't the only uniformed people on the playa. There are also TONS of cops there. Here a Bureau of Land Management officer chats with a Burning Man ranger (the go between the citizens and the cops).
John Audley
The rangers huddle around the ambulance helping the patient and clearing the way for the driver.
Josh Keppel
After the Man finally fell on Saturday night, there were all kinds of parties around the playa.
This really cool machine from Vermont was a small Ferris wheel where three pairs of passengers could ride around while the vehicle cruised around.
Josh Keppel
After the Man fell, there were piles of glowing embers where the base structure was set up. Some people walked in-between them, and one woman on the left roasted a massive marshmallow over the fire.
Nancy Rivera
Out at The Wedge, I found Adrian (right) and Mysterious D (left) of Bootie and Piss Clear fame posing with one of the New Yorkers who brought the Wedge to BRC (blond guy with beard ~ sorry, don't know name).
Holding Flame was a very cool piece from Patrick Sheam and Cynthia Washburn of Los Angeles, CA where a flame danced around the ceiling of a steel pergola covered in beautiful sheet steel latticework.
Josh Keppel
You could lay down on the ground below the fire and watch as it danced across the ceiling, organically swirling around in a mesmerizing search for escape.
Josh Keppel
In a city of nearly 45,000 people, tall landmarks near your camp are priceless. This large pyramid with a Luxor style beam of light was awesome to watch from across the street, or across the playa.
John Audley
Mom at night.
Close up shot of Mom raven.
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