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Timothy burning man image art man 2016

Photography by Timothy Alexander Phillips


By Timothy Alexander Phillips

Anyone who’s been to Burning Man will tell you of the futility of keeping plans. On monday it’s nearly impossible and day by day it becomes exponentially harder. Everything about the place seems designed to upend structure no matter how carefully constructed. It’s a vast, barren Bermuda Triangle of dust, chaos, and infinite distractions. Cellphone service is rare, everything moves, sleep is best caught when the opportunity presents itself and nothing is routine. To battle the vast entropy of Burning Man is to build sand castles in a hurricane. The playa is a place of immediacy. Nothing about it wants to meet expectation and once you are honest with yourself you will find that fact liberating. Do not chase the dragon. Just to let go. Trust in serendipity and embrace the beauty everywhere around you. Be at ease, and let the world of possibility knock on your door.

In the past I have collaborated with others to create otherworldly fashion shoots. I didn’t want to be just a tourist, I wanted to generate a story. With the help of talented designers and models I think we’ve made beautiful images together and I am proud of them but I have also been poignantly aware that our creation was a fabrication. It wasn’t my truth or the Playa’s, it was an exercise in beauty and fiction. To be honest I think it has been a way to avoid vulnerability. You can tell a lot about someone’s mind through their treatment of a subject, a photo can be a celebration, or an invasion. In my case, by focusing on beauty I conveniently avoided exposing my personal sentiments to the world. This year was different however, I felt stronger, more confident of my artist voice. I committed to being in the moment, to telling my story. I would keep my camera with me as much as possible and try to capture the infinite moments that resonated inside.



“He said he had found his purpose in life. I said, let me take your picture so you’ll never forget it. ” By Timothy Alexander Phillips


“You can tell a lot about someone’s mind through their treatment of a subject, a photo can be a celebration, or an invasion.”



“You will finally have dignity when you realize that you are not on the path, but have become the path for others.” By Timothy Alexander Phillips


Shooting on manual outside of the studio is tricky under any circumstance but at Burning Man it takes on a new complexity. I’ve crawled, climbed, split my pants and fallen off moving objects. My friends tease me about the weird positions I contort myself into, they call it my photo-yoga. On the playa photographers are at the mercy of circumstance, which is the opposite of our carefully controlled studio environment. By habit I shoot mostly manual and with a fixed lens. No zoom, no cropping, no flashes, worse yet I can’t wear goggles so dust blows in my eyes, I can’t read the meter, and the lens is ALWAYS dirty. To make an image happen I run back and forth and wait for the people and every changing environment to align and hope for a bright enough source of light to illuminate it. This is particularly tough at night, when one moment you’re using the dim, intermittent light of someone’s blinkies to focus a shot and suddenly the night sky is washed with the brilliance and heat a massive art car mounted flame thrower. Nothing is predictable.


Documentary style shooting is new to me so I didn’t have high hopes and sure enough there were a lot of useless images. But I was pleasantly surprised how many fond memories were waiting on the camera and back in New York City I came to a second resolution. In keeping with my commitment to stay present, I would do my best to capture the feelings and memories evoked by each image, to remember where I was in that moment emotionally, and to articulate the parts of the Burning Man culture I hold dear. This collection is the beginning of a project that I hope will continue for a long time.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.


By Timothy Alexander Phillips

“It’s hard to convey the beauty of this moment. These women were childhood friends who had traveled to the burn from the middle east and had never experienced such absolute freedom before. They danced and laughed and cried and watched the playa in wonder and no one judged or ogled, or even said anything at all beyond the occasional cheerful wave on the way by. It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever been lucky enough to share.” By Timothy Alexander Phillips


By Timothy Alexander Phillips

“Night is falling, dust storms are raging, and then there is an oasis.” By Timothy Alexander Phillips



Gratitude. By Timothy Alexander Phillips




 By Timothy Alexander Phillips


By Timothy Alexander Phillips

“The playa is one of my favorite places to be alone. Nothing compares to it for introspection or observation. People’s interactions, the art in the distance, the memories evoked, I could wander for days. It’s perfect.” By Timothy Alexander Phillips


By Timothy Alexander Phillips

“Every adventure needs a Champion” By Timothy Alexander Phillips



“Kennedy twisted her ankle the day before but no one was going to let that get in the way of anything ” By Timothy Alexander Phillips





By Timothy Alexander Phillips

“This wasn’t staged, these two were dancing with such absolute joy it was a pleasure to watch. I hope the image finds its way back to them somehow, it was clearly a really special moment. Kalliope art car”. By Timothy Alexander Phillips




“When you’re walking home and suddenly the music hits just right. ” By Timothy Alexander Phillips


“I loved the metaphor of the lighthouse for Burning Man. A stoic guide for the roughest times and look out point for those who seek to help. It’s perfect.” By Timothy Alexander Phillips


Timothy is a photographer based in Brooklyn New York. He trained as a sculptor and architect at Yale University School of Architecture, before he discovered a passion for community building and celebration while throwing a masquerade birthday party that has become renowned in New York City. His love of artistry and celebration led to the founding of Lightning Society, a network of like minded people committed to expanding their horizons and helping each other achieve their personal and creative potential.

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