33 surreal photos that take you inside Burning Man 2019, the world-famous event in the Nevada desert

Theresa ChristineBurning Man happens every year in Nevada.
  • Whether you’re wandering to theme camps and art installations or exploring the open desert, there’s always something to see or do at Burning Man.
  • This year featured new and exciting art, like an enormous inflatable elephant and a giant, climbable upside-down ice-cream cone.
  • Other art pieces, like the “LOVE” letters, are favourites that have been at the Burn before.
  • The event culminates on Saturday night when the Man burns. Before he’s lit on fire, there is a fire performance and fireworks show.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Otherworldly. Bizarre. Surreal.

These are just a few words to describe the annual event that is Burning Man.

Burning Man happens in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert every year and it’s best described as a temporary city rather than a festival.

About 70,000 people from around the world gather for a week – and then, abiding by a Leave No Trace (LNT) policy, everything is taken down or burned.

Here are some surreal photos that will take you inside this year’s Burning Man, which lasted from August 25 to September 2.


The Black Rock Desert is a dried lake bed with mountains nestled in the distance.

Theresa ChristineThe sunrises and sunsets here are magical.

People attending Burning Man (called “Burners”) who wake up early enough – or just stay up all night – are treated to incredible sunrises with vibrant pinks and oranges.


The Man stands in the middle of the city,.

Theresa ChristineThe burning of this effigy is one of the highlights of the event.

The Man is an effigy with a new design every year – it gets burned the Saturday of the event.

This year, Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu crafted the Man. They surrounded him with a winding walkway covered in cutouts that are lit from within.


Centre Camp stands out with its tall, colourful flags, and people come here all times of day to mingle or see performances.

Theresa ChristineThe tent features a skylight.

In the afternoons, people often practice acroyoga (sort of a mix of yoga and acrobatics) in the middle of the tent.


Biking is the main mode of transportation in Black Rock City.

Theresa ChristineThere are no cars allowed in the desert.

Burning Man encompasses about 7 square miles and you’re not allowed to drive cars there, so a bicycle is a must to get around.


Art cars, also called mutant vehicles, navigate their way around the desert city, which is sometimes referred to as “the Playa.”

Theresa ChristineStill, no cars in the desert.

Here, a larger-than-life Volkswagen van roams Burning Man.


When conditions get windy, dust storms and whiteouts occur, putting an abrupt stop to whatever you’re doing.

Theresa ChristineThis is what a dust storm sometimes looks like.

If the dust storm is particularly bad, you can’t see in any direction and simply have to wait for it to pass. It’s these times when having a face mask and goggles are imperative.


Burning Man has open space for art installations, but there are also many camps that offer a variety of things, from drinks to food to entertainment.

Theresa ChristineThere are plenty of interactive installations around the event.

Some offer relaxing chill spaces to escape the dust and the heat of the day. Here, I’m sitting in a bathtub filled with stuffed bears.


Thousands of events happen throughout the week.

Theresa ChristineSome of them revolve around music.

Here, the Black Rock Philharmonic performs Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to an audience so large it flowed onto the streets.


Looking out at the Playa, you’ll quickly realise it’s impossible to see everything.

Theresa ChristineYou can also see tents and campers.

The city is vast and art continues to pop up throughout the week.


One of the most talked-about art pieces for the year was “The Folly” by Dave Keane and The Folly Builders.

Theresa ChristineIt was massive.

This enormous structure featured a clock tower, windmill, performance stage, and various outposts to make it feel like a town from an old Western movie.


Those who climbed “The Folly” were rewarded with an impressive view.

Theresa ChristineYou can see plenty of people, bikes, and dust.

The ability to gain a little elevation and see the Playa from above puts into perspective just how big the city is.


“Welcome Home,” by Joey Howell and Brian Dean of SALT MIND, invited Burners to climb up an enormous ladder and make themselves cosy in a 1950s-style living room.

Theresa ChristineThere was a mock seating room in the air.

It was held up on some wooden stilts.


The place felt somewhat welcoming, with ample space to sit, chat, and play games.

Theresa ChristineIt was thrilling to climb up there.

Some of the furniture hung off the platform, juxtaposing that comfortable feeling with a bit of discomfort.


Out in Deep Playa, the part of the city farthest away from the camps, rested “Awful’s Gas and Snack” by Matthew Gerring and Crank Factory.

Theresa ChristineIt’s a bit dystopian.

According to the artists’ site, “Awful’s Gas and Snack is a gas station and mini-mart, set in the year 2120, well after gas stations are no longer needed.” Inside was a museum for “our time.”


Standing 75 feet tall, this neon green elephant called “#slonik” was created to highlight the issue of elephant extinction in places like Africa and Asia.

Theresa ChristineIt was impossible to miss.

According to the website of the artist, Michael Tsaturyan, “If we allow elephants to become extinct, it’s going to damage the entire eco-chain, including humans themselves.”


“Cone Down” by Looking Up Arts was a 30-foot tall upside-down ice-cream cone resting in the middle of the hot desert.

Theresa ChristineYou could climb to the top.

Participants could walk inside, climb, and enjoy the chill lounge.


Dan Mountain created “I.L.Y.,” a gigantic forearm and hand.

Theresa ChristineYou can see all of the dust in the air.

The piece’s fingers could move using a series of springs and cables.


“Corpus” by Michael Christain looked like an alien being with gangly legs that had set foot on the Playa.

Theresa ChristinePeople were climbing it, too.

A ladder led up into the pod where people could enjoy shade and take in their surroundings.


Sometimes the art stops you in your tracks and makes you rethink reality.

Theresa ChristineThe piece was huge.

“Why People Can’t Fly” from Vasily Klyukin and Zurab Ermilov featured plenty of colour.


In the desert sun, the iridescent shimmer from “Koro Loko” looked simply gorgeous.

Theresa ChristineYou could see the light reflecting off of the piece.

Emily Nicolosi included nearby benches with this art piece to give Burners a place to sit, relax, and daydream.


Chris Carnabuci’s “Mariposita” stood 26-feet tall and depicted a woman emerging from an egg, symbolizing transformation and rebirth.

Theresa ChristineIt was meant to fit with this year’s theme.

The Spanish word “mariposita” means butterfly, which aligns this work well with this year’s Burning-Man theme of “Metamorphoses.”


Many Burners stopped to watch “Wings of Glory” in action.

Theresa ChristineAt night, this structure had wings of fire.

Designed by Adrian Landon, this giant mechanical pegasus ran and flew in slow motion, and at night its wings lit up with fire.


A vital structure at Burning Man is the temple.

Theresa ChristinePeople leave mementos at the temple if they want them burned.

This year it was called the Temple of Direction by Geordie Van Der Bosch.

Although much of Burning Man is focused on having fun, this is the spot for reflection and letting go of the things that pain you.

Burners leave mementos from loved ones they have lost and other items they wish to release when the temple is burned the final Sunday of the event.


At night, Burning Man lights up with people and bicycles covered in electroluminescent wire and art structures featuring LED lights.

Theresa ChristinePeople park their bikes outside of them.

There are even lit-up pyramids at night that house celebrations. Inside, there’s music, crowds, fire, and plenty of lights.


The Mayan Warrior art car comes all the way from Mexico every year.

Theresa ChristineIt chooses to stop at a special location each year.

Burners follow behind it on their bikes as they wait to see where the special car will stop and set up for the night.

The car’s sound system, design, and DJ lineup never fail to impress.


Some art pieces are tough to spot from afar, even at night when they’re all lit up.

Theresa ChristineSometimes you need to get up close to appreciate an art installation.

Others, like this piece “Mandala: Natural Form” by DASTAN, are a treat for those who are curious enough to wander over and see what it is up close.


At “No Place Like Home” Burners got to explore a scene out of “The Wizard of Oz,” including a home with the Wicked Witch of the West’s feet sticking out.

Theresa ChristineThis piece was a team effort.

At night, someone in heat-protective gear would use fans and fuel to create a winding fire tornado.

A number of artists worked to bring it to the Playa, including Trey Watkins, Mara Greenberg, Alan Becker, Karen Cusolito, Andrew Howell, Meena Sandhu, and Frogma


Some installations, like these letters, have been at Burning Man a few times.

Theresa ChristineYou can sit in the letters and on top of them.

Laura Kimpton’s art has graced the Playa many years, and this year she worked with Jeff Schomberg to bring the “LOVE” letters back to Burning Man.

More than just a spot to snap a great photo, people will sit on (or climb) the letters, making it a nice place to rest and meet other Burners.


At night, the Temple of Direction looks even more enchanting.

Theresa ChristineIt’s considered to be a fairly sacred spot all day long.

By the time it gets dark, it’s already filled with mementos and personal items that people want to let go of.


Burning Man can feel incredibly chaotic, especially at night when you can hear music blasting from all directions.

Theresa ChristineThere are vibrant lights as far as the eye can see.

Still, there is a lot of empty space in between art installations, and some pieces like this one make for the perfect place to rest and enjoy everything going on around you.


On the final Saturday evening of the event, the Man prepares to burn.

Theresa ChristineMost people come out to see it.

Fireworks are often set off to celebrate. There are also fire shows near the base of the effigy.


The majority of the city comes out to watch the fire performance and fireworks show that leads up to it.

Theresa ChristineThis is not something to be missed.

Sometimes they were colourful lights and accessories.


The Man burns and once he falls to the ground, people disperse for what is usually the busiest, wildest night on the Playa.

Theresa ChristineThis signifies that Burning Man is coming to a close.

And when the night ends, the countdown is on until he burns again next year.

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