A Farewell to CameraGirl, Burning Man’s Longtime Director of Technology

For those of us who have been deeply in service to Burning Man and our mission for many years, it’s often hard to imagine anywhere else we might want to apply our skills and dedication. What could compare to the experience of producing Burning Man and witnessing the best of humanity’s creativity on a vast uncharted terrain like Black Rock City?

Leave it to our multi-talented and forward thinking Director of Technology, Heather Gallagher (aka CameraGirl or CG) to discover another place, and for that place to be a futuristic digital dimension which she can fill with awe-inspiring creativity, innovation, and of course, costumes! Heather is joining the executive team at Enklu, an innovative Bay Area tech startup, where she will be creating socially connective immersive experiences in augmented reality, and helping other digital creators and storytellers to create experiences too.

Before leading technology for Burning Man in 2003, where Heather leveraged her Master’s in Computer Science and a decade of corporate consulting experience, she volunteered for Burning Man as a photographer. In the early 2000s (before smartphones, blogs and social media existed), she helped pioneer the early days of digital photography and Burning Man, building her own websites with visual stories of the Center Camp Cafe, Burning Man year-round events, and behind-the-scenes production of BRC, and has had her hand in Burning Man imagery ever since. She volunteered hundreds of hours lovingly photo editing early Burning Man websites. In 2002, we asked her to create first the official Burning Man Calendar, which you can learn more about in this blog post. For almost a decade, starting in 2005, she coordinated the team of volunteer photographers on our documentation team for BRC.

 

Burning Man technology has grown in both size and complexity over the past 16 years, supporting a similar evolution of Burning Man. Heather and her teams have upgraded all our IT infrastructure and software solutions at least once (and probably several times.) They migrated from our own servers to cloud hosted email, database and software services, centralized our databases and event processes, changed ticketing vendors twice, implemented our nonprofit systems, spearheaded the graphical JRS, built burningman.org (which is actually 46 unique websites and counting), transitioned our email to .org, supported technology for spin-off organizations like the Black Rock Arts Foundation, started accepting bitcoin donations, and installed, supported and removed all technology infrastructure for 16 event cycles.

When Heather started, the Tech Team consisted of a handful of staff and a few dozen year-round volunteers. Now they support our organization as a global nonprofit, and her team scales up to 50+ staff in Black Rock City. BRC’s infrastructure has grown from 2 functions with mission critical technology in 2003 to over 70 internal customers relying on her team’s connectivity and support to help our beloved city run smoothly. Most participants don’t have any idea all this is going on behind the scenes, and that is exactly the point.   

Marian Goodell and Heather Gallagher (CameraGirl) at the Global Leadership Conference Saturday night celebration. credit: Vertumnus

Heather is dedicated to community engagement and has often leveraged technical expertise from our community, relying on contributions from a dedicated technology volunteers who provide key supporting functions and consultations. Tech staff and volunteers gather monthly at our long-standing Tech Dinner Parties discussing topics such as open source software development licenses, bitcoin, web search, web development platforms, wikis, authentication protocols, community platforms and so on. In addition, behind-the-scenes her teams maintain collaborative relationships with over 40 different vendors, each of whom are considered part of the extended team and community. Many of them become Burners if they weren’t already.

Heather was an original member of our Executive Committee, BRC Operations and Event Leadership Teams, BRC Budget Committee, and has been on more task-forces, workgroups, and retreat planning committees than we can probably count. Most recently she has introduced technical product management to our culturally oriented organization, and has been a tireless champion for operational and strategic initiatives to help us sustainably scale and engage technically on a global level. We can always rely on Heather to share her keen insights into the heart of the operations of our organization and at the same time to be strategically looking ahead several years towards the future horizon.

Our graphic designer, Tanner Boeger created this image as a birthday present for our techno-priestess boss, the one and only CameraGirl.

These contributions have been truly impressive, but likely that what we will miss the most is the color, creativity, spirit and truly radical expression that Heather brought to… well, everything actually. Like how she came to work as a different Anime inspired character every day for 6 months after a vacation to Japan. Or when she dressed to honor David Bowie’s passing for a week. How she turned a challenging ticket sale day many years ago into an annual office Pajama Day. The Tech Team’s legendary office happy hours with themes, costumes and creative silliness. Heather directing heavy equipment with shiny golden pom-poms. The decorated and illuminated wheelchair and crutches, and bedazzled cast, when she broke her foot. Heather on the roof yielding a sword and calling in the directions in ritual, or leading us at staff retreats and leadership conferences as the Director of Stretchology. Heather was one of the original Appreciation Fairies (complete with tutus of course!) who helped us weave appreciation into our meetings and gatherings. Whew! What a truly phenomenal and colorful ride it has been!

Heather’s service to Burning Man for the past 19 years is unparalleled and her commitment to Burning Man culture, the Ten Principles and our community runs deep. That commitment will remain as she embarks on her new adventure bringing creativity into an emerging digital canvas. She started her new job in June, but will help us produce Black Rock City one more time in 2019. After that we trust that Heather will remain a close member of our Burning Man family for many years to come. Even though we will miss her greatly, we are thrilled and excited for her opportunity to bring her talent and leadership into such an innovative new endeavor.


Top photo credit unknown, 2017.

About the author: Burning Man

Burning Man

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

28 Comments on “A Farewell to CameraGirl, Burning Man’s Longtime Director of Technology

  • Thanks CG for starting the Doc Team and so much more. Best of luck in the future of the future.

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    • Meow says:

      Hello Mr Fasman, Heather built the Doc Team into the rock and roll group of uber talent it is today. It was started before she joined the organization. I worked with Karie Henderson and Ron Meiner and a few others to start that endeavor. It was originally designed to “document” all of the funded art so we could protect improper commercial use. As that purpose disappeared there was a lot more to be gained from the Doc Team. Thank you for being part of it.

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  • Scott Williams says:

    Thank you Camera Girl! Thank you for all your caring support! Good luck!

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  • Massive Bri says:

    CG will be very missed but I’m also excited to hear all about her new adventures!!! And the mate fairy princess will live on in out hearts and bodies as long as there is more dishes to hang, cable to pull, printers to set up, and tablets to hand out! -Massive Bri

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  • What a lovely tribute to an even livelier person! I Love you CG and everything you stand for!! I am so excited to see your creativity spar In this next Lucy environment. It was an honor and splendid joy working with you on greening Burning Man and all that you brought to it. In just L♡ VED the architecture of the Environmental Section on the BM website, I think I still have a copy of the draft! I applaud you for being so brilliantly you!! With love Kachina Katrina*

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    • Oops a few typos I caught after! It should read…

      What a lovely tribute to an even lovelier person! I Love you CG and everything you stand for!! I am so excited to see your creativity soar this next lucky environment. It was an honor and splendid joy working with you on greening Burning Man and all that you brought to it. I just L♡ VED the architecture of the Environmental Section on the BM website, I think I still have a copy of the draft! I applaud you for being so brilliantly you!! Enjoy this next chapter, really happy to hear about it. ☆ KK

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  • YAY, CG! You leave sizable, platform glittertastic shoes to fill! What an amazing run, and what a contribution to the legacy. Bravo, hermana! And congrats on your next chapter… P.S. Love the photo of you, pre-dreads; what a rarity!

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  • Dr “ mini me” deb says:

    Your mini me sends massive gratitude for personally inspiring me to be a sexier, more engaging, human. I dearly wish the best of the best. I didn’t know All you had done for our culture. Wow, why do I find out now? Hahaha, if I had known, I may have been intimidated by your brilliance in tech, instead, I am supremely humbled by your service to all us

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  • Hashtag-Jasmine says:

    Wow, sounds like she was going places… I remember shit-canning my 90s tech job for a start-up. We were rats jumping off a sinking Titanic. As long as you get off before the aft goes down, you’re remembered as awesome. But stock options don’t pay the bills.

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  • Chris Winn says:

    I can’t comprehend the number and depth of contributions she has made to the burn and to each and every one of our lives.

    Everytime I see her she somehow reminds me that every single person has something absolutely amazing and beautiful about them, and I sometimes simply need to take a moment to dig deeper to appreciate that.

    Three cheers for Heather, a.k.a. Camera Girl, May she never stop smiling and spreading happiness as she moves onward.

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  • Bobby Lee says:

    CG exits her position w/ BORG. This is big news. I have enjoyed seeing the role she’s played in helping to build something connective. Onwards and upwards!

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  • Silona Bonewald says:

    You will be missed!

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  • JeffLakeland says:

    Dear CamGurl…THANK YOU! for documenting and improving upon the Most Magnificent Mayhem Moments Midst Modern Manifest Music, Art, Affection, Affinity, Affirmation, Anarchy, Attitude, Attraction, Altruism, Amity, Amusement, and LOVE…
    Enjoy your life. We adore ya…

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  • Hipolito Medrano says:

    Camera Girl,
    We met at the Temple of Gravity for Feed the Artists in 2017. (Guy in wheelchair) Had an in depth conversation about the art, past, and present. It was an amazing moment and I still have the calender you gifted me. Lots of love and always remember: CAMP HATE LOATHES EWE!!¡

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  • opal essence says:

    WOW!!! CameraGirl! Congrats with keeping up with all of the photographic and digital changes over the last nineteen years! THIS is an amazing accomplishment!
    Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors!

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  • Some Seeing Eye says:

    Thank you for your work making the Burning Man of today!
    The behind the scenes, tech “just works,” as it should despite very challenging wilderness conditions for some of its moving parts.
    The front-facing work has the character, “oh, we’ve always had that,” or “it is obvious we would have that.”
    Both take tremendous work, but building the team and internal culture is an equal accomplishment.
    Best in your continuing adventures!

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  • i hate kittens says:

    Why is everyone smiling when my hear is as dark as coal?

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  • Trilo Byte says:

    Congratulations, and you will be deeply missed. Thank you for all the advice, support, humor, snark and all-round great conversations over the years. I wish you well in your next adventures!

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  • jamie says:

    I’m fighting the power. Honk.

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  • Bobzilla says:

    Congrats on the new adventure!

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  • Ice says:

    ❤️ Thanks so much C.G. ❤️

    You’re one of a kind.

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  • Marnee says:

    CameraGirl, I miss you every damn day!!! So excited for your new adventure but the old place just isn’t the same without you. Your unique brightness and style will be missed for a long, long time. Thank you for holding all the space and doing all the things. Mad love to you xoxo

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  • Maria says:

    You have been an inspiration in all things tech and creatively on all levels – ESPECIALLY costumes AND SPIRIT! Congratulations and best wishes on your new endeavor.

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  • Cherry kitty says:

    Congratulations and thank you for all you have done and inspired in others to do. <3

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  • Andrew Johnstone says:

    A force of nature who has helped our community get to the place at the forefront of culture creation. I can’t imagine where we would be without her.
    Good luck C.G. (although I doubt you will need it)

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  • Nickstr says:

    Radiance, laughter, joy & wisdom – you’re a unique person who has led us into uncharted territory and helped this epic adventure evolve from some grainy 8” x 10”s and clipboards. Every so gracefully you’ve been at the core of so much of the artistic-creative-tech wizardry – it’s damm impressive. Thanks for all you’ve done – no doubt you’ll keep rockin’ it in future! Onwards C.G.!

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