STEWART HARVEY and MARTI are West Coast photographers who have established a considerable
reputation over the past several decades through published work and major exhibitions throughout the world.
A few years ago they met one another at Burning Man and discovered that they had a complimentary visual
take on the event. Over time these kindred spirits collaborated to create and a visual pas de deux based on
their individual approach to photographing this iconic festival.
began his personal study of Burning Man at Baker Beach in 1989. He has the longest continual history of any
photographer covering the event, and has become known as its unofficial visual historian. This year marks his
25th Burn, and his Burning Man work has been featured in an array of books and publications. In 1996, his
cover photograph on Wired introduced the world to the first feature article on the event in a major magazine.
That was follow up the next year when Hard Wired published the first photo book on the subject titled simply:
Burning Man. He was also one of four featured photographers in Burning Book, Simon & Schuster, 2007, and
his chapter recalling the first year on the playa introduces Playa Dust: Collected Stories from Burning Man,
Black Dog Publishing, UK, 2012. He is currently finishing PlayAFire, a monograph of his twenty-five years
of photography at the event scheduled to be published by William, James & Co.
Stewart’s photographs on other projects have also been exhibited and published widely during his 30-year
professional career in Portland, Oregon. He is a recipient of an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist
Fellowship, and his photographs are in the collections of the Portland Art Museum, The Tacoma Art Museum,
The New Orleans Museum of Art, The State Museum of Louisiana, as well as several University Archives.
The University of Washington Library recently purchased his New Orleans-centered artist book, which is
titled: I Am What I Need To Be.
MARTI’s work on Burning Man began later, but has been showcased in a number of prestigious international
festivals of photography and art. Her work is in several prestigious museum collections. MARTI lives in Paris
and shows the world over. The Times of India has called her, “the Salvador Dali of photography.” Her work is
part of permanent collections in several international museums of photography, including the Musée de
Louvre in Paris. Her Burning Man photos have appeared in magazines as diverse as Phot-Art and Auto Week.
Her images have been extensively exhibited in shows in Paris, London, Singapore, Phnom Penh, Bangladesh,
Pondicherry, Katmandu, and Tokyo.
MARTI is also a Penguin Books author and has written articles for the New York Times, Washington Post, Le
Monde-Guardian Weekly, and Science Magazine. She was awarded a citation from Rolex for her work on the
environment. Marti’s work on the Cambodian refugees is part of the Cambodian National Archives in Phnom
Penh. Her book, This Earth of Ours, has a prologue by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
About Burning Man …
BURNING MAN has grown over the past several decades from a loose collection of adventuring West Coast
friends into an international phenomenon of art and personal expression in the Nevada desert. The primal
context for it all for has been <the playa>, or playfield, as its name suggests. The playa is a vast expanse of
white desert surrounded by blue black mountains. It is highlighted by strong winds, dust storms, and beautiful
light. It is a landscape that demands much and provides more.
The playa provides the setting for an extraordinary collective experiment in art. It is a volatile incubator,
which inspires both outrageous behavior and boundless creativity. It is an important focal point for both of
their photographic work.
Over the past 25 years, Burning Man has evolved from a small gathering on a beach in San Francisco to a
major cultural event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Today it may be the most important planetary collective
art event of our time. With 70,000 attendees each year, Burning Man’s influence is spreading internationally,
inspiring similar gatherings, network nodes, and art installations as far afield as Europe, Australia, and South
Time magazine has called Burning Man one of the "100 great places in history.”
(It is an) "insanely interesting art festival, with tiny and huge and awful and magnificent work sprawling all
over an enormous patch of desert."
STEWART HARVEY: A Wonderful Secret
“It’s as though there’s a wonderful secret in a certain place and I can capture it. Only I can do it at this
moment, only this moment and only me.” …. Walker Evans
This often quoted line from Walker Evans has for better or worse guided my work for over thirty years. Like
Evans, I’ve always considered myself a documentary photographer, and documentary photographers spend a
lot of frames in their quest for one that illustrates the “truth” about the subject at hand. Timing is everything to
the documentarian. The still camera’s singular advantage is its ability to record a significant intersection of
time and place. What matters most to the success of the image is the moment the shutter is released. What
matters most historically is the relevance of that moment.
I approach Burning Man photography in much the same way. I don’t think of it so much as photographing an
event (which implies journalism), but as trying to capture a revealing moment about a particular place and
situation. The Black Rock Playa and the event itself are uniquely intertwined and compelling, but each
presents the same problems as when photographing a beautiful woman or a magnificent landscape — It’s hard
to get beyond the obvious. Because of this I’m usually attracted to those moments that challenge my intuitive
senses, when the weather is volatile, the lighting elusive, or the mystery hidden behind a chaotic façade. It’s
the fragile promise of a dramatic occasion and a unique environment coming together for a brief moment to
give up an extraordinary secret that I find most exciting.
MARTI: PHOTOGRAPHY AND BURNING MAN
My first work of art was a pair of muddy shoes on the porch of my grandparent’s farm house in the corn fields
of South Dakota. My first real photographic images were of their black dog, Raven running around the
windmill, and the old church and graveyard just behind the house. Those photos have long since been lost, but
they are still deeply engrained in my memory.
For me photography will always be about seizing the moment between hope and fear and transforming it into
something that transcends time and space and steals eternity.
Burning man is like visiting another planet, a crafted realm of dreams and deep realizations, moments of
transformation. A city is built in the desert. Amazing art installations dot a harsh landscape. A few weeks after
the event, there is not the slightest trace. Creating interactive art in such a context gives our lives a sense of
“For me Burning Man is about people with live vibrant minds coming together in nature and revealing our
common humanity through the expression of art in all its forms. It’s a place where humans might masquerade
as extra-terrestrials and where cosmic visitors might just pretend to be human. All this happens in a desert
where harsh winds and dust prevail to remind us that we are always at the mercy of the natural elements that
inspire us by their vastness and humble us with their force.”
MARK WOOLLEY: Owner/Curator, Mark Woolley Gallery, founded in Portland, Oregon in 1993:
I just returned from Burning Man a few days ago. (2015 theme: “Carnival of Mirrors). It was my 5th time, the
last four being with the Black Rock City Post Office, serving the 70,000 souls of Black Rock City, Nevada.
Stewart Harvey has been 25 times, MARTI “at least ten”, in her words. Quite a lot of history there. I was able
to spend time on the playa with each of them, though it’s always a bit rushed as there are 2,000 things going
on at any given moment, literally. Maybe more like 70,000, the same as the population. You never really
know what is going to happen or what will rock your world. This year the actress Susan Sarandon was there
with some of the remains of Timothy Leary, to be burned in the striking photo chapel created by Michael
Garlington and his crew. I saw an unintentional burn of a luxury RV, which was lifted by a nearby
construction crane to prevent an even wider conflagration. I met people from literally all over the world, one
of the reasons I continue to go. I rode out to the deep playa at night to look at the sky with two friends. I am
more than pleased to offer the works of Stewart and Marti to Portlanders—some who have been to Burning
Man and many who have not, some claiming to “know all about it” (“sex and drugs!”), though they really
don’t. Because you can’t, really—it is a moving target, with a million permutations. It is what it is and what
you make it. You know fully that you are alive as the wind and the sun and the cold remind you every second.
I sincerely hope that the images of these two gifted photographers will either give you a flashback or offer a
glimpse into your future.