I’ve been watching a lot of Vimeo and YouTube videos of this year’s Burning Man (and past years as well), and keep getting comments from my friends about how many beautiful young people are featured. I always answer that these films are not accurate portrayals of the mix of people. Not everyone there is young, and certainly not everybody is beautiful. One of the strengths of Burning Man is its dynamic diversity, and the strong sense of the right to be whoever you are without society’s usual judgments.
I understand the need to use advertising-style techniques in developing popular videos about Burning Man, but I’m unhappy with the under-representation of our older group of Burners. We’re here, we’re old, and sometimes we don’t look so hot in scanty clothing. But at Burning Man, we have the right to wear those skimpy outfits, or nothing at all. We’re not judged while we’re at the Burn, so why should we be judged by the video makers? I’d love to see a coalition of photographers and videographers who make a point of featuring the diverse age groups that represent the Burning Man experience.
I am personally guilty of loving the videos of pretty people. One of my favorites this year is “Burn” on Vimeo, produced by first time Burner Kien Lam. Part of its attraction is the soundtrack — Ellie Goulding’s song “Burn,” a near perfect anthem for Burning Man (although I doubt if that’s the reason it was written). But, again, the people are mostly young and beautiful. Of course, there is a moment of special significance to me when Lam shows our Lamplighter group on its ceremonial lighting of the city – led by Lamplighter Dog Brain (Adam Lambert). But in that case, you can’t see the real people under the robes.
If you’ve attended Burning Man, you already know that there are people of every age, shape and size populating Black Rock City. If you haven’t gone and you’re a little older, you may have the impression from the current crop of videos that you won’t fit in. That’s just not true. Burning Man is – of all things – real people. Yes, there are shapely naked women (and men) at Burning Man, but the opposite is true – bodies that are real, imperfect and sometimes outside of the realm of what our world has decided is “pretty.”
Whatever you think about going to Burning Man, don’t make your decision because you don’t think you’re young enough, svelte enough or pretty enough. One of the things I love about the Burn is seeing the exposed fat tummies of the older crowd. One of my good friends in Lamplighters has such a build, but he proudly shows it off to the delight of everyone there.
And let me not hesitate to repeat that states of undress are NOT required at Burning Man. You wear (or don’t wear) whatever you like. Lashes and I are not comfortable being undressed in public – although Lashes often looks sexier at Burning Man than any other time of the year (something that I greatly appreciate).
Filmmakers need to come forward and capture the true diversity of Burning Man’s population. We’re not all LA starlets and ripped body builders. And those of us who are a little older know full well that those bodies will be changing as time and gravity take their toll.