(Non) Newsflash: Burning Man Is Not a Backdrop for Your Product

This is the second post in a series about Decommodification, one of Burning Man’s 10 Principles and a crucial issue in our culture.

There are lots of reasons to go to Burning Man, but one of the best is to get away from the relentless consumerism of mainstream society. It’s a relief to be part of a culture that isn’t marketing at you all the time.

Part of Burning Man’s magic is having experiences that are unmediated by corporate influence, where relationships aren’t transactional and are instead based on things with unconditional value. It’s what makes it different from festivals or other pre-produced events and social spaces. That’s why using Burning Man to sell or promote stuff feels so wrong.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Decommodification Principle, it states: “In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.”

In the spirit of Decommodification, you may not use Burning Man, Black Rock City, or any imagery from the event to promote a product, service, or brand. The playa is not a backdrop for your business! That means your furry coats and sparkly boots, your hats and headdresses, your necklaces and glasses, your masks and LED trinkets, your e-bikes and scooters… and it’s definitely not okay to do your couture fashion shoot in the Temple.

Here are a few examples of things you should not be using photos from Black Rock City for:

Example 1: You’re a yoga instructor. You took a picture of yourself doing yoga on the playa with an amazing art piece in the background. You want to post that picture on the Instagram page for your yoga practice, where someone can click on a link and book a paid session. Stop! Not ok! You would be using Black Rock City — and someone else’s art! — as a backdrop to promote your business, and none of that is ever Ok.

Example 2: Your friend makes leather belts and sells them on their website. You wear one to Burning Man and want to post a photo of yourself wearing it in front of the Man, and you want to tag your friend’s business as a way of saying thank you. Stop! You would be using imagery from the event to promote a product. Black Rock City is not a canvas for advertising.

Example 3: You’re in the Temple surrounded by people’s remembrances. PLEASE DON’T TELL US YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT USING THAT SACRED SPACE AS A BACKDROP FOR A FASHION SHOOT.

If #3 sounds familiar, that’s because it really happened this year. We’ve seen troubling reports about stuff like this coming out of the 2018 event, and it’s time to take a stand!

Using the event for marketing purposes is not just a violation of Burning Man’s Principles, but also of our ticket terms and conditions (to which everyone agrees when they go to Black Rock City) and federal regulations. Practically speaking, our trademark and image-use policies give us the legal right to protect Decommodification.

For example, we routinely reach out to promoters who advertise “Burning Man” parties or use images from Black Rock City without permission from Burning Man Project. Uniformly enforcing our policies ensures that we retain our ability to prevent a “Burning Man Spring Break Party” sponsored by some massive corporation.

Compared to that, your Instagram post promoting your small business might not seem like a big deal, but it is. It contributes to a blurring of the line, and protecting Burning Man’s name and imagery from exploitation is important to the survival of our culture.

How-To (And How Not-To)

Everyone shooting still or moving images in Black Rock City for any professional purpose goes through an approval process, which ensures that the creators of the media project understand and adhere to our policies. This includes the fact that Burning Man “may not be used for any commercial or promotional purpose whatsoever without prior written permission”. If you’re not sure whether you have prior written permission, you don’t!

The place we’re seeing the worst offenders is on Instagram, and the rate of commodifying posts has gone up significantly in the past couple of years.

Please note: No one involved with the epic mutant vehicle Heavy Meta was involved with this photoshoot or consented to have their art used in an advertisement. You’ll notice the person who posted it didn’t even bother to name or attribute it.

How You Can Help

We need your help! If you see a playa photo/video on social media with a brand tagged, post a comment about Decommodification and ask them to take it down. Is your friend promoting their stuff with images from BRC? Seize that teachable moment and educate them about the 10 Principles! If you’ve tried reaching out to someone directly about their commercial use of Burning Man photos or the Burning Man name, and they ignore, block, or argue you with you, go ahead and email our team at ip@burningman.org.

Lastly, we are not saying you can’t post your photos from your time at the Burn! You absolutely can tag an art piece and the artist who built that piece. You can (and always should) tag an artist whose work is featured in an image or a photographer when making personal use of a photo.

If you have effective messages you want to share with the Burning Man community on the topic of Decommodification, we’ll share them on social media (see this Instagram post for an example). We’re looking for language, images, graphics, or video — whether it’s your own message about the importance of Decommodification, your funny spoofs of commodification, or examples of people doing it right (or wrong) on playa. Send the goods to instagram@burningman.org.

Let’s keep the virtual playa as decommodified as the one in the Black Rock Desert!

(Top photo by Bill Kositzky)

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

102 Comments on “(Non) Newsflash: Burning Man Is Not a Backdrop for Your Product

  • Stephen Bissinger says:

    I this can be effective…..more and more of Instagram is becoming filled blatant examples of this.

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  • C.e says:

    Love this article thank you. When in question over right or wrong always ask, clarify your need of use, and proceed only after obtaining approval. Looking forward to the burn, And remember don’t be a dick.

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  • John says:

    3rd World Problems…

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  • Mike says:

    The org lost control of photography on the playa when they stopped enforcing blanket media passes for all cameras and copyrights on photos. The horse has left the barn. Too fucking late. You blew it.

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    • Brian Morris says:

      well well well, when the Burningman brand © decides to start enforcing its contract with those who ignore it???? Maybe then will you realize its never to late to make people pay for their insolence!

      I hope they do it to clean out the riff raff

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      • Kelli Halston Hoversten says:

        When Burning Man starts treating the health and safety of the volunteers seriously then they can start crying about people making money from using the playa for commercial use. The volunteers have no workers rights and Burningman hides behind workers comp instead of implementing safety rules to protect volunteers and participants. No volunteers should lose their jobs and livelyhood back home because Burning Man volunteering caused them a permanently disability and made them legally blind.
        Plus Craigslist has ads for plug and play camps advertised. A problem that Burning man says it wants to stop. Stop placing those camps. Clean up your own back yard FIRST.

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      • Enforcing the copyright and intellectual property is nothing new, although such a public explanation is new.
        This is an effort to clear up a lot of misinformation and ignorance about Burning Man, the event and culture.

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  • gage says:

    Some Instagram model walked up to my art car, posed provocatively in front of it while her photographer snapped pictures, and immediately walked off when I tried to talk to them. I was less irritated by them using my art car as a set for a glamour shot and more by how completely dismissive and gross they were, but I’d still love to track that picture down and flag it.

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  • Double Check says:

    “There are lots of reasons to go to Burning Man, but one of the best is to get away from the relentless consumerism of mainstream society. It’s a relief to be part of a culture that isn’t marketing at you all the time. ”

    Where else can you get relief from gross consumerism and marketing these days. Thanks for the reminder.

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    • Emiline says:

      wow – i just can’t believe this shit – my guess – the conversation about the likes of Playaskool (theme camp placed in BRC by BORG) ripping off hundreds of virgins (DMV tagged) JAGUARA “wanting to…generate an echo for their positive actions” is getting REAL so distract with a bogus story like this….. Get real deal with the ACTUAL ON PLAYA commercial outfits which stink – and stop pretending you are not part of this problem….

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      • Natalia says:

        ooohhhhh yeah – my 8 rfiends from Madrid camped with PlayaSkool and were not given back their thousands of dollars total “cleaning” deposits because the camp was not given a green MOOP light…. The amount of rip offs happening in BRC is getting out of control. BORG where are you when something is actually happening?????????????????

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      • Jesus says:

        LOL. That cleaning deposit enforcement sounds like it was entirely appropriate. Sounds like you’re confirming your Madrid friends didn’t LNT. And then confused by the fee anyway.

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    • Megletts says:

      At the library (:

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  • Kazin G. says:

    yeah and burners burning burners for being burned tops it all.

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  • Emiline says:

    Hugzilla also a total rip off scheme. Fishing for rich Russians to bring in the cash to make ends meet – mere days before gates opened. And One Tribe the teepee queen from Canada burning through new virgins every year at camp rates of between 350 and 1700 for the week Feel free to add more commercial offenders on playa – let’s make a list!

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    • Lea says:

      Hi Emilie, as a long time vet (1999 my 1st year) I feel the need to correct the false information you are making about the best camp I have ever camped with, in all my years, One Tribe. I camped with them last year, and paid WAY WAY LESS than $350 for camp fees. I am a struggling artist, and this is one of the few camps where it was viable for me to pay these fees and also have some things taken care of to make my journey there easier. I am not sure where these figures are coming from.
      The One Tribe Camp infrastructure is one of the best I have seen. Where you there last year. did you perhaps visit our camp and see our entire layout?????
      This is the first time ever I have camped at a theme camp and did not have to bring my own water for the week. Traveling by car, the weight and capacity that the water takes up in the car, guzzling gas and leaving very little room for other necessary items.
      We have a fully functional kitchen, accessible 24 hours, we have water removal, we have meals served every day, covered in all of these camp fees, The shipping containers (40’ and 20’ and freezer for the entire camps food for the week are shipped in.
      The Majority of the camp members are returning Burners, with a few new virgins, introduced to BM by existing members.
      Burning man is about community, camps are about family, so should just one family member be paying everything that goes into building a camp that is hosting over 150 people a week???? As it is, even with all the camp fees paid, ‘the Queen of the Teepees” is still paying out of pocket to cover all the additional costs.
      Everything that is promised to a camp member is truth, not what I have experienced with other theme camps over the years.
      There are healers, yoginis and just amazing all round people in the camp gifting to the playa all week, People come to One Tribe to visit, and leave feeling uplifted. This year was a healing journey for me, as I was grieving the loss of a loved one….the support I had from my camp mates (strangers before I arrived and now friends for life) as I made the sad journey to the Temple, healed me in ways I had not known I needed healing in. The support and love would not come from a camp that is out for profit, the camp is built with pure intent and love, and the space is held for all of us to grieve, celebrate, love and heal.
      Please come visit One Tribe this year to see what our camp is really about <3

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      • Sunshine says:

        Totally agree. Tribe is about giving new burners an entry into the community. We teach the 10 principles and live by them. Been a member of tribe for 4 years and have never seen anything like that. Come by and hang out with us!

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      • Alice says:

        I would like to add ..to this..not on the bigger issue as I’m not versed enough
        to know but I can passionatly say… anything that dilutes …the soul and heartbeat of a city that has changed my life…I will defend like a lioness… however .with no predudice…having been lucky enough to make the pilgrimage from the UK to “home” for many consecutive years…I have seen and unfortunately been in camps that don’t seem to have the heart beat of community…and it hurts your soul…but then I found…one tribe….my family….they do not ask the ridiculous high end money you alledge..you should be judged by your lies and deformation of a camp that that askes nothing but covering costs and improvements to provide so much to the radical inclusion of all black rock city inhabitants….it’s obviously going to sadden our souls that you cannot see the love and beautiful opportunities we give…but we welcomed back every year…due to Millie’s dedication…..and if burning man and the 350 residents of our amazing tribe feel the love….maybe you should swing by so we can feel the heart beat together

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    • Lee m says:

      Using camp fee levels to judge a camp on its merit is quite close minded. You have no idea how one tribe allocates their funds.

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  • Aya says:

    How do you relate to DJ’s and parties promotions using sets from Burning Man?
    Is there any difference because this is there art?

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  • Anti M says:

    I called out the stylist on that Temple shoot. She informed me that Burning Man had “evolved” and the Ten Principles were created solely for the regional burns!!! I missed last year after 17 years in a row, because my husband passed away on 8/27. That stylist left horrible remarks on his photo on my Instagram, then blocked me so I can’t remove them. I will be bring his kilt and ashes to the Temple this year, I’m really hoping there will be no Insta Models.

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    • Newt says:

      Sorry to hear about your loss. Every year I am so moved by the Temple. It boggles my mind that people get in there and would use it as a fashion shoot. Please do bring something to the Temple to honor him. Even if some people don’t respect what’s going on in the Temple, you will be supporting the rest of us who hold it sacred.

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    • The Hustler says:

      Oh no! I’m so sorry.

      I remember seeing that shit Instagram post (although I don’t remember who it was now). I emailed IP and commented.

      Report comment

    • Micro says:

      Oh my God. Im so sorry. Im so sorry.

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  • Milayna says:

    I’m glad this is being addressed directly, finally. The problem is large and has been building for years. I would love to see a change in the ticketing (no super expensive pre-sale tickets) and vendor rules.

    It’s far too easy for people to pre-purchase an entire experience now. When it requires some work and planning to attend, then you see a self-limiting population of participants (vs spectators).

    Change is fine, change is good, but this year it was very clear that if the change continues moving in the plug n play direction the event is going to lose the heart that makes it worth attending.

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  • Hey guys! Kevin from Heavy Meta here. We are thrilled to be featured on the Burning Man journal, even with a giant red X over the photo haha.

    In case it isn’t obvious from the photo, the picture of our dragon on that Instagram post is not our doing. People take a lot of spontaneous photos of the dragon at the burn, and we totally welcome that! However, we do not welcome using our art to violate Burning Man’s image-use policies. The brand in question did not ask our permission to promote their products using our mutant vehicle, nor would we ever consent to using images of us from Burning Man being used to promote a brand.

    Thanks to everyone for being eternally vigilant, and thanks for including us on the Burning Man Journal alongside the Temple! … even if this is not the way we would’ve chosen. <3

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    • adam says:

      Hi Heavy Meta!

      I think that this article is on pretty shaky legal footing. In US copyright law, the person who clicks the shutter owns the copyright of a photo.

      Now sometimes taking a picture of artwork can violate the artists copyright, for instance taking a scan of a painting because it does not meet the Transformative Use test.

      But you didn’t create an image. You created a fire-breathing dragon car. A photographer created a picture, comprising your car (or part of it from one angle), the sky, the light , the playa, the model, the scene, and put all of them together into a two-dimensional image. He didn’t re-create your fire-breathing dragon car, only an image with part of it. This would probably meet the Transformative use test.

      I think this article is over-reaching with its opinion of legal protection.

      I don’t mean to mansplain this to you, as you are an artist and probably know this, but other readers may not.

      Report comment

      • Aaron says:

        Interestingly, several regionals I go to assert a legal claim to joint copyright ownership for any photos taken at the event as part of your legal contract you sign when purchasing a ticket, and have rather onerous requirements about attribution and where the images can be posted. I’m not making a moral claim on that policy, but that is how it is handled.

        Ultimately of course as with all legal issues this comes down to who can pay the lawyers.

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  • Andros says:

    This is like trying to shovel shit against a tidal wave of feces with a small spoon. Good luck Burning Man Project. I applaud the effort, but sadly this is what happens when mainstream capitalist American culture finds out about anything interesting or unique. Capitalism is a relentless force for appropriation, extraction, and commodification.The only way to avoid that is to be under the radar. BM no longer is such and so now has to contend with the many many cogs in the dysfunctional capitalist wheel that is America and that will be constantly searching for how to make a buck off the event… Se la vie.

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  • Your not serious says:

    What about all the obvious plug and play camps?
    Or the overpriced trailer rv rentals.
    Water delivery
    It looked to me like there is a ton of commodification happening at burning man.
    Dangerous art that shouldn’t be approved (because they have lots of money)
    A fire artist told me his fire hit a spectator, but hey the organic wanted that piece.
    Give me a break.
    There is allot for sale at burning man these days.

    Report comment

    • elf says:

      Well said, especially when a vendor goes out of their way to have their trailer wrapped just for Burning Man with their company info & logo after asking if they can (they asked me & and I told them not if they were taking it on playa). They did & still took it on playa. Amazing how some get special treatment. It’s either all or none guys. This is why Groba & I no longer go on playa anymore. Too much BS. IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO CAN PAY THE MAN THE MOST. Sorry, that’s not our point of coming to Burning Man.

      Report comment

  • Fuck Your Burn says:

    I’m sorry this sounds like elitist “let independent designers find their own way to make money, profit from these images is for the Org alone” to me, especially example two where an independent designer made her friend a fucking belt and the friend thanked that designer by tagging her after wearing it to the literal fucking place she commissioned the piece for… but yeah “radical inclusion….” if you’re rich. Otherwise go fuck yourself we’re gonna delete your friends post bc it is commodifying what Burning Man .Org already commodified: a Party in the desert where white people can pretend they have a culture.

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    • Newt says:

      There’s definitely a problem with plug and play VIP camps with commodified services for rich people. But the answer isn’t to personally throw out having any principle yourself and shit on the whole thing…. That’s just self defeating.

      Push against the shitty stuff happening instead of just trying to join in on it.

      Report comment

    • FuckYouInParticular says:

      “where white people can pretend they have a culture”

      Oh ok, there it is – you’re not just ignorant about advertising as commodification (doesn’t fucking matter if the business is tiny, how starving the artist is, etc) – you’re also a straight up racist.


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      • Micro says:

        “Where white people can pretend they have a culture”

        That statement even tho containing the word ‘white’ is not racist.
        Mention of someone race does not inherently make something racist.
        There is no opression here.

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      • Garcia says:

        Damn. Brown man here. Replying to Micro below. Racism as only a product of oppression is a new development from certain academics and disagreed upon by others with equal standong and less interest in activism. The dictionary definition of racism does not have an “oppression” pre-requisite. If I don’t like you because your skin is white, or if I make disparaging comments about white people…thats flat out racism. Same with othet colored people. Stop pretending that only conquerers are racist warmongers. The world is full of conquering warmongers of every color and creed. Trying to act like whites aren’t people and therefore can’t experience racism is rubbish, simply because ANY culture….Babylonians, Zulus, Aztecs, Mongols and more COULD have been what European descendents are today. (And to some extent Mongols have extended lineage across cultures anyway) They’re still people and they deserve respect.

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  • B says:

    One of my favorite things last year was watching people driving around in “Art cars” (golf carts) with a leaf blowers ‘helping’ models and photographers during their photo shoot ;-)
    Good times!

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    • britelite says:

      Yeah, they’re “radically expressing themselves” through beauty and beauty shots. Maybe you’re not happy to see that at the Burn. I see “radical self-expression” that I don’t like. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be there.

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      • sparkle donkey says:

        He’s upset that these people have permission from the BMOrg to have commercial photos taken on playa and on top of that get approval to use golf carts to stage these photos so the insta-models don’t have to bike to the art piece for their photoshoot. Literally what burning man is saying here is, “If you don’t pay us, you can’t use Burning Man as your photo prop.” The 10 principles died years ago.

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  • Gary Wallinga says:

    I recently read somewhere an article written by an individual who worked for a board member who operates a “hotel” of sorts in Black Rock City where people pay a lot of money to fly in, be provided with comfortable lodging, prepared meals, private lounges and art cars, all for a large price tag. Isn’t this commoditication?

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    • Watched That Trainwreck says:

      Ah. Well, that entire story in detail is probable lost a bit in Playa dust, but it was probably 2014, “Caravansicle” and the rather misbegotten “Caravansary Hotel”…sponsored and run by an Org Board member, who was then apparently left the Board…


      120 guests at ? each for the week…

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  • Lana says:

    I was up late in an instagram fashion spiral. I came across some photos of a famous model with flash photography at the TEMPLE BURN with multiple tags of small brands… I was furious. My parter suggested I report them and I didn’t. I did some light ranting within my circle and a friend told me some Inside scoop. The Victoria secret model has a massive business in tagging brands. That was even a heavier blow… they’re not just ignorant and boosting up their friends brand but their being paid BIG bucks. Do they know the principles or have respect for this world ??? I wish I reported or commented at the time. It warms my heart this is being brought to light. Hope they read this article and SHAPE UP! . Everyone loves a comeback !

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    • Eli says:

      Lana – you feel disgusted by this action because it is definitely wrong. Flash photography for commodification DURING the Temple BURN is completely unempathetic and selfish toward other participants. You are protecting this model’s name. Why? What is the name of the model? The model is not going to read your post and reconsider heir actions, you need to take action to stop this kind of behaviour. We need you to do this for our community! At the very least, please report the model to ip@burningman.org

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  • Shap says:

    All this dirty talk makes me need a shower. Recommend a brand of soap that’s good for burners? *knowing wink*

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  • True, I do like the signs of BMOrg moving back towards to community. The pendulum swing has been at ALL ABOUT ART, & THOSE DOING ART, AND LOOK AT THIS ART, AND SUPPORT THIS ART, AND HELP THIS ARTIST BE RADICALLY SELF RELIANT WITH THEIR ART WITH YOUR DONATION,” for a while now. The “community” picks up on the priorities no matter what “words” and “intentions” they are covered up with. Kudos for calling out the MIND MOOP.


    “What’s the best thing on the playa?”

    “The people on the playa” Always the people.

    The playa and art, that’s just symptoms of cool peeps obsessing, not the other way around.

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  • Some Seeing Eye says:

    The beauty of Burning Man is anonymity. Anonymity is the 12th principle after Consent. Anonymity is the scarcest of experiences.

    If you want to take a photo for commercial promotion, use the blank playa. That demonstrates you love adventure in the remotes.

    Of course, post weeks after, never moment-of. It signals you want anonymity and privacy for your (maybe happened maybe didn’t happen) burn.

    Best of all worlds.

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  • Argyre Patras says:

    About damned time!
    Been hoping that there would be some push-back on this oh-so-slippery-slope.

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  • nncoco says:

    This article is a good step but the community has been calling out PnP camps for years and they still get placement and access to services for their RV parks. Show so teeth in this area and others will follow.

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  • Paul Henderson says:

    Burned for 22yrs. Have about 50 photos. Be in the moment.

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    • Jeremy says:

      First year for me was 2018, and I have to say this was the easiest and hardest part at once. Easy because I didn’t need to worry about charging, carrying, or losing a camera (my phone). Hardest because afterward people are asking me for pictures, what I saw, what I experienced, and I feel guilty saying “You have to see for yourself, I didn’t get many pictures because I wanted to simply experience it.”

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    • Mitzi says:

      yeah, same here. 22+ years burning, and i don’t even carry a camera or phone anymore — haven’t for years. be the change.

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  • Bob says:

    This is the problem with people identifying with a brand or thinking they are their own brand.

    Brands are commodification and at some immediately-arriving point, the brand is all that matters.

    We even see it int he actions of the BMOrg, doing what’s best for the brand and making sure the party (and the money flow) continues instead of ensuring the health and safety of the community.

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  • LaCaDan says:

    As a sanctioned & permitted Photographer creating my art, those using the event for Commercial purposes is a real irritant. It makes it more difficult to make my art, because of the negative environment they create.

    I go to great lengths in getting consent when appropriate and often forgoing great shots, so I do not interfere with the experiences of others. It is a privilege that I take seriously, as should others.

    In my opinion, Burning Man Rangers should confiscate the Photo Equipment of those that violate the clear rules. For example, current rules state that if a drone goes in the air in the wrong places, or without one of the very limited allotment registered permits ….it is to be confiscated, then returned at the exit gate. This policy should be extended to “Commercial Photographers”…. after all….technically there are no “Commercial Photographers” allowed at Burning Man.

    On the PnP camps…. I would like to see them go away. It has created “privilege”. Is this really the intent of the founders? Deny placement and ticketing to these types of camps in the future. I have to set up my camp, they should too.

    There are thousands of people patiently waiting to fill the allotment of tickets, and it would go long way in removing the “white / wealthy“ stigma that haunts Burning Man.

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    • Mark Kaplan says:

      “I go to great lengths in getting consent when appropriate and often forgoing great shots, so I do not interfere with the experiences of others.”

      The minute we pull out our cameras we interfere with the experiences of others, and it’s important to remember that.

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  • Sandra says:

    Some of the products being displayed at the event are pretty cool, though. Some of the companies give out free samples, also. So there should be exceptions to the rule.

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    • Eli says:

      No, no and NO.

      Yes there are plenty of cool products, but it is NOT OK to hand out free samples of a product at Burning Man. That goes against the principle of Decommodification – please read the principle again.

      Handing out free products with a brand name on them is a form of advertising and promotion in exactly the same way as handing out leaflets with a brand name on them is. Just because the person is handing out a “free” product does not make it qualify as a ‘gift’. At Burning Man, it is only a gift if there are NO strings attached. If the gift giver truly wants it to be a gift, then they should not gain any form of financial benefit from handing out the gift, and the only way they can truly do this is by handing out their ‘gift’ without the gift having any brand name or advertising on it.

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  • experimental says:

    Riding along as though the event is seperate from the mainstreamness of things works for awhile, and has – dont just camp though – let’s turn this camp around to the front street and engage…you can’t stop money – you can make an awesome camp though….

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  • nadlou says:

    I always wanted to go. I don’t live that far but affordable it isn’t anymore. After reading through many comments here and on other threads, it just isn’t attractive anymore. In day to day life I’m not a mainstream consumer but hearing what BM has turned into – just no. It would make me sad – besides, I’ve reached old age apparently.

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    • Eli says:

      Nadlou, I must tell you that if I only ever read what I saw online and never went to the burn, I would feel the same way as you. Thankfully, I go to the burn every year and I can see that in my experience, the negative things that we discuss online make up only a small proportion of my experience at Burning Man. Maybe 5% of my experience.

      There are far more amazing things that happen out on playa, and this is why the community is so passionate about protecting the values we uphold. It is better to talk about them openly to prevent things from escalating, and to call out people who are doing the wrong thing so they can’t keep getting away with it and in turn make other people feel that they can do those things too.

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    • Brando says:

      Nadlou, you can apply for a low income ticket, get a small tent and shade structure, then camp in the walk in camping area, where you can find and be a part of your own little self organized communities. I have gone to the burn, driving over 500 miles, and spent less than a thousand dollars for all of my food, fuel, camping equipment, ticket and vehicle pass. So it is possible to get to the Playa, without spending a lot of money. I have spent more on just airfare from previous adventure trips than I have on spending a couple of weeks, at the Burn.

      You are never too old, to be a part of our community. There are tons of people who are in their 70s and 80s who make the journey home, to Black Rock City every year. I hope that you will reconsider going to Burning Man.

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  • John Phelps says:

    I strongly support the course change initiated by the new CEO. Herding 70,000 people requires radical, bold and uncomfortable moves. I would urge stronger enforcement of the principals. I was nearly hit by a bicyclist racing across the playa at night without a light. I called it out and he turned around, chased me down and wanted to fight! I think Rangers should be empowered to permanently eject folks that are serious hazards to themselves and others. Theme camps aligned with the principals is the right thing to encourage.

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  • A says:

    I’m going to call out an under-the-radar camp that is making a huge profit and capitalises on Virgins.


    This is a sneaky camp that you can’t really call plug and play, but a single person makes a lot of profit from the camp fees.

    There is only one person running the camp, ‘Gatsby’. Gatsby posts on ePlaya every year to get newbies and Virgins to join his camp. The same people never come back to his camp again – he has no core crew apart from 2-3 people who volunteer to help him, and those sweet naïve people do not know any better because they have only ever camped with him, and they don’t see how much profit he is making off the camp. Those people are not even referred to as camp crew or core members, they don’t have titles, they just do a lot of work and get barely any credit for what they do. He prefers to keep people at a distance so they can’t see how he runs his finances. The camp leader stores all of the theme camp gear and equipment on his own vacation property (his lovely beach house) throughout the year and does not hire a truck for transport – he uses his own trailer to transport gear on and off playa. This sounds great, except he charges camp members $200 USD per person, and with 75 campers, that adds up to $15,000 of funds for the camp. He has purchased items for he camp over the years, and he gets a LOT of stuff donated to him at the end of the burn, but other than this, he only has to buy alcohol (from Costco, not “top shelf” like he promises), ice from Arctica for Sno-Cones, and fuel for generators and a fire art piece, plus a large potable water tank and a grey water tank (plus removal), which in total we estimated would not cost more than $5,000 (and that’s being generous). Let’s even say he puts another $1,000 towards licensing, maintenance and upkeep of the camp equipment every year, to be extra generous. He still would be making $9,000 profit off the camp fees. On top of that, also rents out a few pre-installed shift pods to campers at $2,000+ each for the glamping experience.

    The overal experience at the theme camp is great, except for the final Sunday, where it all goes down the drain. The camp leader turns into an aggressive, controlling, cold hearted maniac. I guess he doesn’t want people to have a good experience so they don’t return the following year, otherwise they may catch on to his scam and realise how little money he actually spends on the camp and puts in his pocket.

    On the final Sunday at around 8am, right after the night of the Man Burn when everybody has been partying (and many people still are partying and have not even returned to camp yet), he wakes up whoever happens to be present at camp by banging on a large Gong RIGHT next to their tents and loudly tells people to get out of bed through his megaphone. There is no official word EVER communicated to camp members at ANY point before or throughout the week that this is going to happen to them. Hence why half the camp isn’t even present at this time.

    The camp leader then FORCES everyone present to pack up their tents and all of their gear, and get it all off the site so that he can conduct a MOOP sweep once the theme camp has been packed down. May I remind you that this is on Sunday morning, right after the night of the Man burn, when most people are sleeping or simply not in the state to start working in the full sun.

    The few people who happened to be present at camp are then forced to tear down the shade structures, so that anybody else who returns to camp in the meantime can not sneak in their tent to have a power nap due to the intense heat from the sun. People are yelled at by the camp leader and told to work (in the full sun) for the rest of the day and well into the afternoon, breaking down the entire camp and packing everything into the camp leader’s trailer.

    Once the entire camp has been packed down several hours later, the camp leader then bullies people who have any remaining tents that are still standing on site to pack away their tents or he will do it himself. This even applies to people who are not leaving until Monday or Tuesday, and/or people who have caught the Burner Express bus and literally have nowhere to store their belongings. He believes that there may be MOOP under people’s tents, so he wants those tents removed. He is dead set on this MOOP sweep. He only cares about the MOOP sweep because it affects camp placement the following year. Plus, it’s easier to lure newbies in when your camp scored green on the moop map the year before.

    So there is another kind of camp emerging that goes beyond plug and play. In this case, it is under the radar, and run by a single person who says he has been to 11 burns, yet he doesn’t even know what the letters in ’MOOP’ stand for, and he doesn’t know where the nearest medical tent is if you ask him either. He is the ONLY official camp crew member, so he should know this! He doesn’t even have an initiation or camp meeting at the start of the week to explain how things work at the camp to all of the members. He couldn’t care less. He has simply been to enough Burns to know how to exploit people and make a profit – and I wonder if he even pays tax for the thousands of dollars he takes every year from running the camp.

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    • Dean Hanley says:

      Gatsby here. I won’t hide behind an anonymous post and am proud of what we have accomplished at Camp Fuego (aka F.U.Ego). We are the furthest things possible from a PnP camp and the idea that our camp is a profitable venture is laughable. This disgruntled and unwelcome camper from Fuego 2017 says nothing true about our camp and knows literally nothing of our members, finances or how we operate. Nonetheless I will attempt to respond with the realities of who we are and what we do. We are a model BM camp and I personally make myself available to other camp leads to help folks fulfill their own vision of an effective and successful camp.

      Camp dues from our 60-70 campers pay for our yearly consumables and importantly are our gift to the playa and fellow burners. The dues pay for those gifts: the bar, the snow cones, the ice at $300-400/day, the water, the gatorade, propane and gasoline.

      Importantly, camp dues also finance a generous Fuego Scholarship Program that allows some of our campers to get their dues reimbursed (and then some) for spending 3-4 days at our post-burn clean up to clean and prepare the tents for the following year. This allows campers to camp with us at no net cost. The Scholarship Program for 2018 was a $6,000 line item.

      We serve thousands of dollars of booze, beer and hard cider each year. At BM 2018, we served $4000 worth of bar drinks by Tuesday (!) when we had a late arriver bring huge reinforcements. We don’t make a pre-made drink and portion it out slowly to make it last. When you come to the F.U.Ego Bar, we serve you whatever you like, as much as you like and for as long as you’d like. It’s generous because that’s how we like to roll. To my knowledge, we serve the playa’s only organic snow cones. Not cheap but real fruit died to make that cone. It’s usually about a $2000 line item by the time we include the cups, syrup and ice.

      Camp Fuego is no one-person show; to suggest such is a huge insult to the many burners that make it possible each year. The core Fuego campers have been tight and camping together since 2011. We are a group of friends that each bring significant contributions to the camp in terms of infrastructure, energy and leadership. Our core leadership presently comes from 3 states and 4 countries and occasionally extends to new members over time. We also welcome new burners, teach the principles effectively, and host travelers from all over the country and all over the world.

      No one has a “glamping” experience at camp Fuego. Campers bring their own food and shelter. Members cook their own food. All members work the bar and stage. Shiftpods are sometimes available to my personal friends for about $3-400 (the $2,000 suggested is false) so that over a 3-4 year period I can recuperate their costs.

      Camp Fuego has only 2 important rules: campers come for the entire week (no late arrivals or early departures for camp cohesion) and all campers must participate in Sunday Strike Day when we strike the camp. These are the first things anyone learns coming to our camp. This camper, and her friends, were all too quick to enjoy all the party days and nights and even quicker to evaporate on Sunday Strike Day. Apparently her vision of a camp is one in which she does nothing to build or strike it. But that’s not Camp Fuego. Because these campers so thoroughly violated the trust placed in them to participate in the strike scheduled months in advance, and at the suggestion of other camp leads, we instituted a Sunday Strike Day Deposit to secure participation. It was very successful in 2018.

      Lastly, this comment is offensive, off topic, and flies in the face of what BM and the Principles stand for. I’ve personally poured a great amount of coin and toil into the joy that is the BM experience. Fortunately this bad apple and her ingrate friends are the exception and not the rule.

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    • Owen says:

      Fuego is an amazing camp! I loved being a part of it and would not hesitate to camp there again.

      If you think that Gatsby could possibly be making any kind of profit after everything that we do on playa, then you have a serious misunderstanding about the resources needed to run a successful Burning Man camp.

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    • Eric Feris says:

      For my 8th burn, I camped with Fuego in 2018. I normally camp with a smaller theme camp, but we took the year off last year. One of my friends found Fuego and I was invited to join. I intended to learn about and experience a larger camp, meet new people, and just have a different experience. It went very well. I enjoyed camping with Fuego. Everyone was great. The camp dues were in the same ballpark as what I’d always paid. The shade structure covered all the tents and public areas. The camp was extremely well-planned and well-executed. Gatsby was very communicative in the months leading up to the burn. When I met him in person after arriving, he was very nice and welcoming. And throughout the week he was always approachable and gracious, even when he was busy. Other team members were as well. In advance of the burn, I knew exactly what to expect, including the 8 AM Sunday strike. Any camp could take a lesson from their MOOP mitigation. We left not a hair on the playa. Camp Fuego has its shit together — I’d recommend them to anyone. It felt safe, it was fun, there were no surprises, the leadership was good, fair, and transparent as any I’ve seen, and the people were awesome. To whoever wrote this unwarranted comment — sounds to me like you fucked your own burn.

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    • Pickle (fresh as a) says:

      Gatsby doesn’t need the money buddy, don’t know what you are on about, in fact the handling of the coin is very transparent.
      Radical inclusion, an approach that totally ticks the box. All sorts here, including many an experienced Burner and many a returner.
      MOOP record, speaks for itself, outstanding.
      Booze, plenty of it, and it is top shelf.

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    • Lauren says:

      Camping with fuego has been an amazing experience for me. I so appreciate everything that is done by Gatsby and his team because everything is done with the intention to create the best possible experience with the LEAST amount of dues necessary. Your information on how the camp dues are used is so wrong. Gatsby does not in any way profit from Fuego. In fact, he even makes it possible to get ALL your money back. The $200 you spent to camp with us is NOTHING compared to what you would have had to spend to have half the experience and amenities provided by the camp because of the dues. I’m not sure who hurt you or what the camp or any one in the camp did to you to deserve this nasty ANONYMOUS comment but thank the playa Gods you wont be with us anymore! But please, come by the camp this year, talk to the people who are a part of it, see how much fun everyone is having and maybe even grow a backbone and apologize to Gatsby after hearing everyone say the opposite of what you posted.

      P.S. this article was about decommodification, not your personal space to b****. For future reference in ANY relationship, you should contact the person directly and explain your concerns. This will help you to avoid making assumptions and looking like a dumbass.


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    • Claudine says:

      Right out of the gate, I appreciate you highlighting Camp Fuego’s commitment to the Leave No Trace principle of BM. In order to acquire a permit from the BLM, it is critical that all participants take MOOP as seriously as Camp Fuego does. I’m sorry this was lost on you as a positive, and you appear to be complaining about it. But thank you for being truthful about how meticulous we are about clean up. We are proud to be good citizens of BRC.

      Other than that, the rest of your rant was nonsense. Gatsby is not profiting from the modest camp dues. I have been attending BM since 2001. I am extremely familiar with the rules and culture at this event. Camp Fuego participates in the best and most generous spirit possible. Camp Fuego doles out ridiculous amounts of beverages, has a water station, gives out snow cones, provides a stage for people to perform their songs, has an enormous shade structure with comfortable lounge chairs and provides an extremely comfortable camping setup for Camp Fuego members.

      Dean works with many seasoned burners to put this experience on every year, myself included. He dedicates a huge portion of his personal time to orchestrate this camp, and last year 82 people were able to benefit from his generosity of time, energy, resources, and management skills.

      Camp Fuego is the opposite of a “Just for Us” camp. We are committed to leaving zero freaking trace. We serve up delicious alcoholic drinks. We give out frosty snow cones during the day. We provide a water station for people to fill up water bottles. We have a professional sound stage for people to perform on. We have an enormous shaded lounge area for people to relax in or get their groove on. For a large camp, the responsibilities are very relaxed and enjoyable. As a member, I enjoyed an extremely comfortable camping experience.

      Hope all you insomniacs got to the end of my post. See ya on the playa! xoxo

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    • Steve Farris says:

      I am completely bewildered by Anonymous’ inaccurate account of Camp Fuego, which is as spiteful as it is uninformed. I’m not quite sure what could have occurred to bring about these feelings of animus. Personally, after 8 burns, I can honestly characterize this camp as both the most fun and the most efficiently run that I’ve ever been a part of. All of it can be credited to Gatsby’s determination and generosity, along with the hard work of talented team of people he’s managed to assemble. I had an unbelievable experience in 2018, and I hope to be a part of the Fuego crew for the foreburnable future.

      Acoupla points: After just a cursory look Anonymous’ forensic accounting, I would say that he or she is off by about 10-15 thousand dollars, at least. The notion that Gats has gone to all of this trouble building an elaborate theme camp for the purpose of enriching himself is patently absurd. Without going into any great detail about it (since most of our campmates know what I’m talking about anyway) I personally witnessed Gatsby spending a great deal of money solving serious unforeseen problems which almost none of us could have resolved. By the way, he had no obligation to. He just did.

      Secondly, whoever posted this was clearly a newcomer to the intense amount of physical labor involved in striking a camp with this much infrastructure. I’m sorry that Gats disturbed your beauty rest the night after the burn, but anyone worth their salt in that desert should know better that Sunday is D-Day. In the future, consider doing your heaviest partying for the 6 straight days, and taking it easy on the last one, instead of doing the reverse.

      I have no idea what kind of expectation Anonymous arrived with. I do know, that if you hate the work aspect of this, there’s always outer-playa with a one-man tent, tepid water, and stale granola…or there’s glamping in the VIP section at Bonnaroo…or there’s Sandals Resort in the Bahamas… Or you can camp at Burning Man with 80 awesome friends in a camp with a kitchen, showers, electrical power, and a fucking karaoke bar. Best believe you’re not gonna get any of that shit unless you put in some serious sweat equity to make it possible.

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    • David Hammer says:

      Dear Dean Hanley, known to us as Gatsby,
      I was privileged to camp with you in Camp Fuego at Burning Man in 2018. I am saddened but not surprised to read the incredibly hostile and distorted comments of this commenter “A” from Feb 9 purporting to “call out an under the radar camp”. In my 30 years working as a psychotherapist I have witnessed the incredible hostility that individuals can project from within themselves on to other people and situations they encounter. I have no actual knowledge about this particular commenter, so all I can do is to describe the stark contrast in the experience that I and my three closest campmates had with you at Burning Man in 2018.
      This was the first burn for all four of us and we were nervous about our lack of knowledge and experience. From the moment we signed up 9 months before the burn you were incredibly welcoming to all of us. We marveled to each other repeatedly at how thorough and organized you were and giving information to camp members. We appreciated how you answered each and every anxious question we had. And you clearly wanted members who would promote the principles of Burning Man. We attended parties at your home as a result of your open unrestricted invitation to get to know other camp Fuego members. You made sure that we connected with members who could answer still more questions that we had.

      Our 2018 camp was a mixture of old friends of yours who helped you organize everything and newcomers that everyone heartily welcomed. You found our tickets for us, but even though you verified their authenticity, unscrupulous scammers found a new way to deceive you. So we found ourselves in Lot “D” unable to enter the community. You came to our rescue and with two hours work convinced them to let you purchase a ticket for me at $1,000. I later learned that you did that for two other campmates. As we rode into the gate together you encouraged staff to give me the full Burning Man welcome as a “dust angel.”

      Dean, you were always there for us. You gave us a full orientation on our first day amidst a dust storm – and didn’t seem to mind us grumbling. When the four of us ran out of water you didn’t hesitate to give us more. You gave us the freedom to open the bar and karaoke stage whenever we chose to. But you did NOT want anyone to disrespect the Playa. No one was to leave the horse Fuego burning unattended. And when it came time for clean up we joined you in the serious commitment of leaving no Trace.

      I made gifts to give out to other burners and I gave one to you. You seemed to cherish it so much that I felt as if you were giving me a gift instead. I joined you and other campmates overnight at your house after the burn to clean up all of our equipment. Once again you threw open your house to us to come together in community. I could see that there were campmates who really needed the scholarship refund that you offered for the cleanup process and I thank you for doing that.

      You made it possible for first timers like us to fully absorb the spirit of all that is Burning Man. We thank you for that wholeheartedly.
      David Hammer, always your ” not too old” friend

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    • MariaOS says:

      I don’t normally comment on the internet but, accusations of profiteering and bullying are pretty serious and in this case, couldn’t be further from the truth. I camped with Fuego in 2017 and to say I had an absolute blast would be an understatement. Fuego is an amazing camp made possible by an amazing man. Gatsby puts so much of himself into the camp and yet he tells you all burn week “This is your camp, guys” and encourages you to make it so. Gatsby and the core crew are welcoming, relaxed, organized and warm. This post was entirely unwarranted, I’m pretty sure Gatsby takes a financial hit each year with Fuego, but he wouldn’t tell you this as he is a humble person. Communication from the start was flawless, Gatsby has a knack for making the mundane organization stuff funny! I can honestly say that the Fuego experience is exactly what Burning Man is about; community, friends, giving, laughing and snow cones :)… and a little bit of work to make all of the above possible. Fuego is NOT a PnP camp, that’s fake news guys. Would camp with Gatsby and the Fuego crew in a heartbeat :)

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    • Jesúe isita says:

      I will start by saying that you always return to the place where you felt loved. my stay in the Fu.Ego camp is one of the most incredible and incomparable camps. Gatsby Dean It is more than a camp leader is a great friend and a person very capable to making your stay in this camp is wonderful And extraordinary.
      The first day we talk about the mopping on Sunday.
      And this is how it works if you do not like to do the MOOPING is your problem do not come to burningman.
      To finish I want to say that this year I return with camp FU.EGO and Fu. EGO.

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    • Bullet says:

      Wow “A” for anonymous, I presume? I’m joining my Fuegians to call out your angry comments. First, as Lauren rightfully stated, your best method to improving anything, sharing ideas and providing feedback is best done in person or even by email after a Burn instead of trying to publicly shame an individual and a camp in this way with information that does not ring true. Camp Fuego is *not* anywhere close to a plug and play nor is it the tyrannical dystopia you’ve described.

      Camp Fuego is a camp where people Burn their Burn in the way that they can Burn. All Burners are welcome at Camp Fuego, no matter what their Burner skillset might be. We had people from all over the world, of all ages and interests. The camp has a welcoming, top-shelf, open-at-any-time bar that serves every day of the Burn except during The Man and Temple burns, a fun as hell karaoke and stage set up, organic sno cones at high noon, and campmates who will welcome you to hang out in our shade, dance the day/ night away and entertain you with our slack line or balance boards for the inner snowboarder in you. Camp Fuego is an extremely open and interactive camp. Anyone can sing karaoke at anytime. Anyone can DJ at any time. You might be gonged off stage or you might get to hang out in the VIP Lounge with all of your friends if you make it through a song.
      We have great, foodie neighbors. We have a flaming horse, Ms. Fuego! And this year, one of our campmates who is an artist in real life, painted two beautiful super tall portraits of Anthony Bourdain, which allowed an opportunity to many Burners a place to grieve and share memories of the man who inspired them. We’re that kind of camp. An F-U-ego kinda camp.

      Everyone in our camp has a role to play and we all know what our jobs are. Some did bar shifts, others did kitchen clean up, garbage management, build crew, ice crew, stage crew, pullers from the street. This is clearly defined and offered in advance of the Burn. People volunteer for what they can & if someone is having a great Burn and gets lost? So what. Campers fill the gap and help. Stuff breaks. Campers fix it. You said there are no explanations, but Gatsby runs an orientation on Sunday night to give guidance on safety, sanitation, running a bar and cautionary notes on equipment. Our build crew was a large group and worked very hard during super difficult conditions. Sunday night orientation, prior to the Burn and right up until Sunday morning Gatsby says three things: Everyone does strike on Sunday; I don’t want your stuff so take it with you, have a great burn.
      Gatsby takes his leadership role seriously, stepping in to assist other campers in discomfort and even has the “difficult” conversations when it seems some Burners are ignoring consent. And it was not just Gatsby who did this- This is a great group of people.

      All camps can use improvement, but your comments do not ring true to what we know from Fuego. We all know that strike is brutal. Camp Fuego is no different. It’s hard, but we do it. And I will say that I am not the strongest human, nor was I at my physical best on strike day this past year. Guess what? My campers graciously helped me get through it without calling me out and let me do what I could do. I hope to get to return the favor someday soon.
      I hope that my voice joining the chorus informs our collective group of Burners who read comments that this criticism given by “A” should be taken with a grain of salt.

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    • Paco Aleman says:

      2018 Fuego Camp Virgin here

      This guy is nuts, he really didn’t burn his fucking ego for sure, it was my first experience at burning man, and i can say FUEGO camp was far better than i expected, in fact its hard to believe he can run the camp with 200 USD per burner, FUEGO its all about love and friendship, the strike day is well described before you go, and its the RIGHT thing to do at least, there was no way i could it make it happened as an international traveler and bring everything i needed to camp, and its waaaay far for a plug n play, everyones helps each other, and you want have any schedule or anything, its the perfect camp for a virgin or experienced burner.

      i have a GREAT time, and i for sure will return to FUEGO every time i can, i have friends that go to District, Maxa Camp, Mayan Warrior, and nothing compare ties FUEGO, not even the 200 fee with other camps, where you do have work shifts, and that sucks.

      Don’t believe any word from this guys post, FUEGO and GATSBY is the perfect camp! i had a great time!!

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    • Air says:

      After reading the Camp Fuego rant I had to put in my two cents. Since OP chose to post anonymously I won’t call her out, but having been there in 2017 it is very clear who she is. The only drama myself and friends felt during the week originated from her. Constantly fighting with herr significant other and the frequent drama made a chunk of camp actively avoid her. Perhaps that’s part of the negative tensions was feeling. On a more petty note, some us didn’t appreciate her turning the shared A/C VIP Lounge into her own person bedroom once it got out out. Occasionally is one thing, but every day?

      First off, the Sunday Moop cleanup was made VERY clear beforehand, in the pre-playa documentation/instructions, and during the week itself. There was also at least one meeting at the beginning to familiarize everyone with the equipment and food/drink handling procedures. I am sorry that she did not read the instructions or participate in the meetings, but that is on her.

      Costco has a very decent selection of Hard Alcohol, and being from Costco does not automatically mean the booze is not top shelf. What it is is more affordable, keeping our dues lower than what they could have been. $200 was extremely reasonable considering all that was provided for campers and the community as a whole.

      I’m sorry that Gatsby was unable to give her directions to the closest medical tent. I would suggest practicing self reliance. I never once expected our camp lead to be tour guide or Burning Man information desk. Look at a map or find a Ranger.

      There were many repeat campers with Fuego. I’m not sure if she was making that up, or just did not interact with many of her fellow camp-mates. I know of multiple people from 2017 who missed 2018, but intend to camp with Fuego again in 2019.

      All in All Fuego No Mercy Karaoke bar was an excellent Camp. It was certainly run differently than other camps I’ve heard of, as Gatsby is very welcoming of Virgins and new Campers. There were many international people in our camp; and while there were certainly cliques and separated friend groups, it still felt like a community.

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  • Ars pralium says:

    Can we please stop having DJ set times displayed?

    I help run a camp on Esplanade and spent a third of my time being rudely demanded directions to a DJ. Of course I sent them as far in the wrong direction as possible. I’m not always a troll but pretty much none of these people asked me nicely or engaged in any sort of fun or conversation with us or anyone near us.

    It was an added bonus watching them dump their beer cans on the bar or table on the way out. Some people helped out and brought them their trash which didn’t go super well every time but was also pretty funny.

    The couple people who were friendly got correct directions. The ones who helped pick up other people’s garbage got our respect and best drinks.

    I really don’t like the direction BM is going. Our whole camp is considering calling it quits because the best part of the Burn is leaving. THE PEOPLE!

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  • Magorn says:

    Since I work literally across the street from the Renwick’s Museum which opened the “No Spectators” exhibit, I mentioned I’d been to Burning Man. Her next question broke my heart: “What years did you go?”
    ” ’99 and 2000″
    “Thought so, you went before it became bougie”

    Pretty much all she knew of burning culture…kills me… And yet? Could I say she’s wrong? I ended up inviting her to the regional I helped found instead of challenging her to go to BRC to see for herself.

    Here’s how we used to do it:

    In 2000, I ran across a man pushing an ice cream cart in the middle of the open Playa. He offered me an ice cream bar in a plain white cardboard box. He said, “Hi, I’m Ben” and we had a pleasant couple minutes of conversation and he moved on. It was a great years later that I recognized him in an ad. THAT Ben… Of Ben & Jerry’s. That was the magic of the Playa then. Anonymity and the freedom that came with it.

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  • Glimmer says:

    Sorry BM.org, you brought all this on yourself when you didn’t stop the Morris Burner Hotel. At the time, a for-profit endeavor that sought to gain cache (and clients) by promoting a connection with Burning Man by using it’s moniker and imagery. It was tolerated and when I inquired, Legal changed the topic. And now Dierks Bentley is promoting his concert series as “The Burning Man Tour”. There should have been a public outcry – but no, not a peep. Without public (and I mean well-known news outlets like Reno Gazette) discourse defending the IP, this behavior seems condoned.

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  • Carmelo J says:

    what are your thoughts on an artist, say a singer/songwriter/guitarist using the Burning Man environment for photos to expand their own portfolio? (BUT NOT including anyone else’s art in the photo background). Is there a fine line for artists working on their own portfolio versus individuals using BM imagery as a backdrop simply to selling product?

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    • Jeff Knox says:

      “Is there a fine line for artists working on their own portfolio versus individuals using BM imagery as a backdrop simply to selling product?”

      Isn’t the point of a portfolio to sell a product?

      I’m not trying to be snarky but building a portfolio is a promotional tool. There is a bit of a fine line on how you promote yourself. Using Burning Man to promote that image is bad but using an image from Burning Man might not be. It really depends and the best action would be to speak to the Org about your concerns.

      Full disclosure: I have photographed Burning Man for the past five years. I apply and register as a photographer with Media Mecca. To date I have only used my images on postcards that I gift at the event.

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  • Wizard says:

    Can we please, please, PLEASE make this required reading before anyone is allowed to purchase a ticket?

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  • Mariano Tripiciano says:

    The main reason this happens is because there are no real consequences. People can post anything and the most ugly thing they face is a reported picture in Instagram.
    But if you punish them with real actions, like a 1 year ban from BM, then people will be more decommodified :)

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  • Faceblind says:

    “You absolutely can tag an art piece and the artist who built that piece. You can (and always should) tag an artist whose work is featured in an image…”

    Unfortunately, finding the name of Burning Man Art pieces or of Mutant Vehicles, and of the artists who created them, is very difficult.

    The Burning Man organisation makes excellent lists of them, but they keep them mostly secret (except for some people such as the Doc Team photographers). These lists should be made public – and easily searchable!

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  • Ken says:

    Because of the burning man ideology and to be consistant and for sure to not to be a hippocrite…. If you do not want the public to use the private label “burning man” brand then do not use the publicly owned labels of “black rock” and its iterations; black rock desert, black rock playa, etc. walk the walk.

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  • Andrea says:

    Here my camp experience: because we can. It put all the theme camps in one bag.

    Gatsby( my camp organizer aka f.u. Ego) is not just spontaneous and welcoming spirit( remembered when I met him on webcam and from distance he accepted me with arms wide open and I felt was a sign of something amazing, it was!) He is super organized and very committed with every member of Fuego. I couldn’t be more lucky of finding him to get recruited to my first burning man experience. It also reflected in the people I met last year, cheering, loving and always committed to help. Fuego is not just the best located camp but also very transparent, real and Human that’s respects all the BM principles as sacred… shit is definitely not easy to organize the theme camp and also the people and he does it every year! I admire him. Never felt I was being in a fake camp that wants to do profits, felt at home!

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  • Thank you Lovely Burning Man Directors! This is so needed and long overdue. Our culture was at stake. Thank you for cracking down and keeping the Decommodification the Way! Cell Phones are for the other 51 weeks of the gosh darn year!

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  • MICHAEL SNOW says:

    It is up to us to make this taboo. If we see something we should say something.

    Last Burn there was someone spraying peoples faces special water from a branded cooler. I clocked it, but I admit, I didn’t want to confront the person. Next time I will. It is my duty!

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  • AnnonArtist says:

    I’m writing this to apologize to the community and seek both forgiveness and further clarity. To start off I’ll say I ignorantly reposted photos taken at BM on my art instagram page that featured someone wearing a mask that I made. After reading this article the first thing I did was say “oh sh*t” to myself than quickly deleted all the photos and references to BM on my socials. I am sorry that I initially reposted the photos and once I understood my error I immediately moved to fix it.
    Now for more context I am a young artist working out of my basement studio who has not yet been to the main burn but I’ve been to a regional a few times. I make both wall art as well as masks. I often get sent photos from people of them wearing my masks at various festivals or events, and if the photos look nice I will sometimes repost them to my page. So last summer when I was sent photos from a couple who wore my masks at their wedding at BM I was supper excited that my art made it the the playa even before I did. I did not plan any photo shoot, nor did I even know that my art was at the Burn until after the event when I received the photos. At the time I was honored that someone felt that deeply connected to my art that they would include it in such an important ceremony. So I immediately reposted the photos like I often do from other events without really giving it much thought. While I now understand that this was wrong, at the time I was just really excited and honored to have my art make it to BM and be a part of this beautiful moment in these people’s lives. I posted them to celebrate that my art had made it to an event that I view as a sacred space, not to try to capitalize on the event. I previously misunderstood the scope of the decommodification principal. I thought it just meant that you couldn’t buy or sell anything at the event other than ice, and I just didn’t really give it much more thought than that before. Now it’s obvious to me how I was in the wrong though which is why I immediately deleted the photos after reading this. So again I would like to apologize for anyone offended, and especially to the BM leadership.
    With all of that being said I would still like some clarification. This summer I had planned on finally going to BM myself after years of wanting to go. I have been planning my trip since last summer and have been really looking forward to it. However, I had planned on bring some of my art masks for myself and friends to wear at the event as this is what I always do when I go to events. I don’t do this to sell products, but because my art is meant to be worn. Wearing my elaborate masks is one of my favorite ways to contribute to the culture of events and they are always popular both at festivals and the regional burn that I have attended.
    How can I best avoid being accused of commodifying the event while still bringing my art?
    Would it be okay to post photos of my self/friends on my instagram at the event as long as we are not wearing the masks?
    What about photos that don’t include any other art/indications that it is at BM apart from the desert background?
    If someone takes a photo of a person wearing my art mask at the burn in front of a sculpture you would want them to tag the artist who made the sculpture but not the mask? That seems kinda arbitrary, the person who made the the sculpture is also profiting off their art in the real world.
    I’ve noticed when someone posts a photo wearing one of my masks and doesn’t tag me in the initial description, people in the comments inevitably end up asking them who made the mask and they end up tagging me in a comment, is that okay?
    In the future I was hoping to one day do a larger scale art install at BM. If I was given an art grant and made an art install would I be allowed to share that over socials? How is that significantly different than posting a photo of a performance art spectacle of my friends and I wearing masks and chanting or something like that?

    I genuinely asking these questions in the hope of getting further clarity as I dont want to again offend the community. I dont want to commodify the event but I do want to wear my art there if I go and would like to know the best practices for me and other creators when wearing my own designs at BM.
    Again I am sorry for my past posts and hope to be forgiven and accepted by the tribe.

    (I posted anonymously to not inadvertently use the post to advertise my art.)

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  • your mom says:

    this article is absolute hypocritical crap. burning man IS a backdrop for its own commercial objectives. who do they think theyre fooling? selling insanely inflated tickets in bulk to the rich and turnkey camps, so the burners who actually give a shit have to grovel for admission? yea. thats not commodofication. as long as the BORG keeps contradicting what it preaches, ill keep sneaking in people who cant afford to support the boards 7 digit salaries. see you in the dust…

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  • MizzCherryPieAlaMode says:

    If you really want to decommodify burning man, then stop broadcasting it and giving every participant access to the interwebs during the event. The thing about being in an environment, that does not have Internet or wi-fi access forces individuals to be present and connect in a new way. Other than Medical staff, and Safety, there is no actual need for Wi-fi connection. None.

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  • bo says:

    Last year was my first year not in a camp and not in early on an art project. Due to business constraints I had to come in on Wed. I parked my old RV in the overflow and mobs of rented RVs full of ‘tourists’. I know BRC wants new attendees but these tourists brought nothing to gift, had no idea about any of the 10 Principles, leaked water, barely brought food (most thought the camps feeding Burners was part of their ticket price), stored fuel improperly and the only art or culture they brought was a costume. I tried but in the end I was mostly just successful in fixing their bikes, RV leaks and protecting the playa. It left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I can certainly see some of these people there to promote something other than BM.

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