Erica Martin: Black Rock City
Photographer Erica Martin has long been exploring identity and behavior in her projects, and what better place to examine behavior and human nature in the temporary community that comes together around Burning Man. Right out of Mad Max, the desert becomes a stage for creativity, communal living, and a showcase of costumes and unfettered behaviors. Erica’s project, Black Rock City, celebrates the the desire to be free, to create a new utopia, and to share a few days of music and friendship.
A native of Los Angeles, Erica fell in love with photography when she discovered film and darkrooms in the seventies. She has been working with a camera in her hand ever since. She studied photography at Hampshire College with Jerome Liebling, at the International Center for Photography in New York, and at the Los Angeles Center for Photography, with Aline Smithson, Amy Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark, Cig Harvey, and Ken Merfeld.
Erica photographs people in their surroundings, their rituals and the manifestations of their interior lives. Her work concerns recurring themes of identity, transformation, and the paradox of human existence captured at a moment in time. In addition to her photography, she is the mother of two children, an environmental attorney, and a metalsmith.
Black Rock City
There is much misinformation about Burning Man, and my intent with these images is to counter that by portraying a small portion of the beauty, creativity, and generosity that I have experienced. Burning Man is a splendid experiment, ever changing and evolving. It has also been a life changing experience for many, by giving permission to creativity. I met my partner there the first time I went, and now we have a beautiful daughter, so it was certainly life altering for me.
In another way of thinking about it, Burning Man is actually Black Rock City, the fourth largest city in the State of Nevada, with all sorts of people doing all manner of interesting, creative, and sometimes outrageous things. It only exists in reality for a month or so a year, and lives the rest of the time in the imaginations and plans of many. It could be the greatest artists’ colony of all.
I have heard a solo piano concerto in the middle of the deep playa, and a banjo and bass show at Front Porch Camp, as well as guitar singer songwriters, percussion circles, jazz singers, and a strolling accordion player. A man with a guitar on a bike stopped to listen to the accordion player, and they started in to a danceable blues number, and soon folks were dancing in the middle of the street. A couple of dancers were doing the tango in Center Camp, and a banjo player started playing and an impromptu swing dance broke out. At night, giant art cars float by booming dubstep, sixties rock, and disco. Dancers cavort atop large vessels shaped like ships sailing the playa, or huge mastadon bones, or giant majestic dragons. There are art projects everywhere, from giant sculptures to what the person next to you is wearing. The scale of the thing is overwhelming, and it is easy to get lost. Where am I? Who am I? Who do I want to be and what do I want to do today? What day is it? Shall I just wander, get lost, and see what happens? Whatever you can imagine or create, day or night, here is your blank slate and a ready audience.
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