for the photographer Dina Litovsky Filming the annual Burning Man Festival was a real challenge – but maybe not in many ways you might imagine. “It gets so repetitive and really hard to put the experience into a picture,” she told InsideHook. Litovsky has attended the festival many times, but is also a photojournalist by trade – with work featured in places like National Geographic And the New York Times Magazine.
“At first I was very excited because for the first few years I thought everything was great. Then I was very disappointed,” she says. For Litovsky, the annual festival recurrence was a problem — and it was something she sought to address. “There was a year I left my camera off and took almost no pictures,” she said. Fortunately, the festival’s undocumented period did not last. Instead, Litovsky found a very specific angle when taking photos in Burning Man – something that led to a wide range of evocative photos in the years that followed.
“I discovered albedo, which are sandstorms in there when everything becomes completely white and you can’t see beyond a few feet,” she explained. “So I just started doing a series of bleaching, and I’ve been doing it for the past five years on and off, depending on how the year was – just focusing on photographing these sandstorms.”
In Litovsky’s photos, the landscapes of Black Rock City turn into something very unusual – one part Mad Max: Fury RoadOne part of Jodorowsky’s dream or Tarkovsky fever. Once you see Litovsky’s photos of bleaching cases, it becomes incredibly clear why she is drawn to these events—and even if you’ve never considered traveling to the Nevada desert in late August, they make the festival’s allure that much more tangible.
For Litovsky herself, her work is also a way out of Burning Man’s portrayal standards. “I think a lot of people go in as participants and end up being filmed,” she said. “I don’t know anyone would really do that [photograph]. I mean, I’ve seen pictures, but a lot of them are pictures of burners. And I feel like this has become the main imagery that Burning Man has come out over the years.”
This does not mean that Litovsky’s work documenting the festival is without risk. Or, to put things a little differently, you can’t expect to bring a camera into a sandstorm without a few side effects. Litowski wrote about him Burning Man filming twists In her newsletter – including lump sum Dedicated to the technical challenges of the process. “My Nikon D2X was built like a tank so it survived, but by the end of its life it looked like it had gone through a world war and a zombie apocalypse,” she wrote.
In the conversation, Litovsky went into more detail about the festival’s impact on the equipment. “I only have one system, so it’s always the same equipment,” she said. “I kill my gear in Burning Man. I’ll get the same lens, just a new one. You know, it’s not the safest place for gear. I just clean the camera afterwards and hope for the best.”
Given that Burning Man is an event that brings tens of thousands of people into the desert, much of its documentation has focused on its societal aspects. Litovsky’s white portraits take this novel in a different direction.
“It’s a huge festival. I mean, it’s really huge. You can always find a place on your own if you want to. That’s exactly what the whites do,” Litowski said. They cover the sky and cover the earth and you can’t see a person two feet in front of you.”
The frequency of bleaching can also vary greatly from year to year. “There were a few years there were maybe two years, and then there were some years all day and night,” Litowski explained.
Litvosky’s photos of bleaching at the festival helped her document a basic – and elusive – quality of Burning Man. “I think Burning Man is a very amazing and very surreal place,” she said. “I feel like a lot of the photos don’t do justice to the fact that they focus on a small aspect of it. I was trying to find a way to portray Burning Man that was not only original, but could express the necessity of it, and how it is a very surreal space.”
For Litovsky, undoing the cliched imagery has made for an enchanting and overwhelming work. “I gave up filming the party, which I had tried for the first two years,” she recalls. “Right now, I’m just concentrating on depicting the Burning Man’s silence.” When looking at her work, one thing is for sure: These photos speak volumes.