lighting the way

Every night in Black Rock City, the Lamplighters attach hundreds and hundreds of oil-fired lanterns to the spires that line the major roads, helping every Burner find their way in the darkness.

They roll out at sunset, volunteers dressed in flowing robes, carrying the lanterns across their shoulders on wide sticks they sling across their backs. They meet at the top of the Keyhole on Rod’s Road, where they get a pep talk from their crew chief.

He tells them that their jobs are important. “We provide  illumination, navigation and celebration,” he shouted  Tuesday evening. “We have but one duty … to light this city!”

And then the volunteers made their way all around the playa, hanging their lanterns as they went.

The Lamplighters stopped at the cauldron at the top of Rod's Road.


About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.