Burnmonkey.com contains images of the annual Burning Man festival captured by photographer Phil Steele (aka Philosopher). That's me. I took up photography directly as a result of attending Burning Man—actually as a result of a lucky shot I took in 2003, with my little 2-megapixel pocket camera, that ended up in an art gallery.
Out of that inspiring moment— and a rediscovery of a long-suppressed love of the visual arts, which I had set aside in favor of more "practical" career pursuits—a photographer was born.
Burning Man is a photographer's dream — a surreal landscape populated by outlandish beings and incredible machines, all throbbing to a techno beat under the blistering desert sun. After this, everything else seems boring.
The paradox of photographing Burning Man is that it simultaneously puts you in the middle of the action and sets you apart from it. The camera helps a shy person like me break the ice and interact with others, but it also puts a little glass wall between you and the world—and that wall sometimes becomes a psychic barrier. And of course it's all too easy to get caught up in looking for the perfect shot, and forget to stop and smell the propane.
You'll see a progression in the photos on this site, from those of a virgin photographer with cheap little camera, to a somewhat seasoned semi-pro who lugs around a pair of heavy cameras and a bunch of dust-tortured lenses in the sweltering heat. I honestly think it was more fun (it was certainly easier and lighter) in the early years, when my camera fit in my pocket. But I hope the photos get better over time.
You can listen to the full story of how I became a photographer at Burning Man in this 30-minute audio interivew in the "Great Inspirational Photographers" series.
And here's another Interview about my photography at Burning Man from Ignite.Me magazine.