As many of you know, I recently returned from my 5th sojourn to the Burning Man festival deep in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. This was the third year I brought my Black Rock Portrait Project to the Playa. (My 5th Burn total.) And this was the first year that it was mostly a failure. A variety of factors went into this failure, however I take full responsibility. Many lessons were learned, especially about myself.
My first mistake: Expectation. I decided to go to the Burn with a couple of good friends who were “virgins” (someone who has never been to Burning Man before). I was under the assumption that they would be natural Burners, that they would love it. I was wrong. I expected that they would be the gung-ho, outgoing people I thought they were. I was wrong. I assumed they would help get me out of myself, would push me to go do more things. Again I was wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, it is not their fault, everyone is different and responds to the one-of-kind experience that is Burning Man in their own way. The fault is mine for expecting anything of them, for expecting anything from the experience instead of just letting it flow. The fault is mine for not kicking my own butt and getting out on my own, doing the things I wanted to do, without them. Which brings me to…
My second mistake: Obligation. Because I encouraged them to go, facilitated their trip, and because they took on the lion’s share of the RV bill, I felt obligated to do what they wanted to do, including leaving the Burn days early, which I should not have done. I was having a bad day, which happens out there, and I agreed to it. Again, this was my own fault. I could have chosen to say no, to strike out on my own, but I didn’t. It was my choice, and chose to be obliged.
My third mistake: Not getting out to take photos enough. Although I was sick for 2 days, (and felt fairly crappy for a few more days), the weather was bad for a couple more days, and we left early, I should have kicked myself in the butt to get out with the camera more. This is the main reason the trip was a failure. I went into some pretty serious debt to go and share my project and get more images to create paintings from for my Black Rock Portrait Project. And I feel like it was not worth it. For the first time it was not worth it. Again, I take full responsibility for this. I did find some great models, and a few paintings will come out of this experience, so it isn’t a total loss…
I am still mentally processing the trip, the disappointment (mainly in myself), and the aftermath. I did get out of my comfort zone, which was one of my goals this year, though not quite in the way I had intended. I did manage to have some fun, especially out riding on the Mushroom Patch art car (thank you Michael!). The art out on the playa was spectacular this year. My camp-mates at Whiskey & Dust are about the best Burners out there, wonderful people and great friends. And I did learn a lot about myself. Tough lessons, but good. Will I return to Burning Man? Probably. But next time, I will not put the trip on the credit card. I will do my best not to have any expectations of others, and I will not oblige myself (mentally or otherwise) to anything but my camp and my project.
If you’d like to see some of the model pics from this year, click here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.729892513732784.1073741825.169502786438429&type=3
Learn more about the Black Rock Portrait Project here: http://blackrockportraitproject.com/blackrockportraitproject.com/Home_Page.html