Milano - Black Rock City

Photo Exhibition at the Fabbrica del Vapore

In late August every year, some 80,000 people are expected to descend on 18 square kilometers of Nevada desert to build Black Rock City, the annual, temporary home to Burning Man. Populated by the Tribe of Burners, who are the citizens of Black Rock City. A core part of Burning Man culture celebrates art, community, and self-expression, these works are feats of creativity, collaboration, technology, and critical thinking. Not only installations, they become sites for gatherings, meditation and relaxation. Then, in the event’s final days, many of the works including the Man himself are burned to the ground.


Richard Ahlström a photographer visiting Burning Man since 2013 and other Burns such as AfrikaBurn.

Richard was born in Sweden and spent his early years in Stockholm. He was educated in Switzerland, where he also spent the first 25 years of his adult life. After moving to Paris he studied photography and worked at Studio Click'Clack and worked with photographers like Helmut Newton, François Lamy and Paolo Roversi. Currently, Richard is based in Stockholm, but finds himself abroad for most of the year, working all across the world.

Today his work mainly comprises special projects and photojournalism related to his extensive travels. His editorial clients include bike, travel and financial magazines covering Africa, USA and Asia, and his work has been featured in Swedish travel magazines, as well as the Burning Man & AfrikaBurn galleries. Richard has followed and documented the band Brooklyn Funk Essentials for several years of touring, and he was named a finalist of the Magnum Photo­graphy Awards and the Nikon Photo Contest. Most recently, his work has been exhibited at Bakfickan, at Sven­Harrys Konstmuseum in Stockholm.


From May to April 2019

Fabbrica del Vapore
Via G.C. Procaccini 4
20154 Milano, Italy


What is Burning Man?

In late June, 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James joined a handful of friends on San Francisco's Baker Beach in search of radical self-expression. They didn't come empty-handed.

In 1986, the first wooden man was burned on Baker Beach in San Francisco on the summer solstice. The concepts that created the foundation for Burning Man stemmed from the Cacophony Society in San Francisco, a randomly gathered network of individuals united in the pursuit of experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society. Through subversion, pranks, art, explorations and meaningless madness the society was built upon the words “inclusion, permission, free, responsibility, leave no trace, anonymity, immediacy and participation.”

Earlier that day, Harvey and James had collected scrap wood and built an eight-foot statue of a man. Later that night, the two hoisted it up and set it on fire. A crowd of 20 formed to watch it burn. Little did they know that a 31-year tradition had just been born.

The first burning at Black Rock Desert took place in 1990 after the event had been dismissed by law enforcement at Baker Beach due to fire hazard. The “playa” is a dusty, white, hot, flat, alkali seabed devoid of visible life that is part of the Black Rock Desert. At Burning Man, you don’t just admire the art, you become part of it. 

Today, Burning Man draws more than 80,000 people to Nevada's Black Rock Desert (that figure does not include emergency workers, government personnel, vendors, or contractors.) Over the course of a dusty, freewheeling week in late August, the festival celebrates notions of self-expression, civic responsibility, and art.

The Photo Exhibition

The project is to make an exhibition of 36 XXL pictures, selected from various Burning Man. 36 because the classic film was 36 images, such as Ilford or Kodak chrome. And large because burning man is a very visual event.

The pictures will be presented in a format of 2,50 x 1,60 meters sealed behind plexiglass, to give them a deeper depth and protection for later exhibition at Burning Man.

The picture will be transported after the Milano exhibition to Burning Man Where they will be exposed as an art installation during the next year. However, if possible even to be shown at the AfrikaBurn event.

In parallel of the photo exhibition one could do a multimedia exhibition on various large TV screens, projecting The Citizens of Burning Man, a collection of portraits from AfrikaBurn, outside cape town in South Afrika to Burning Man, outside San Francisco in America, during the years.

There’s no us and them, we’re all the same community.

I felt the glorious, euphoric "shock of the new" the first time I visited Burning Man. Burning Man impacted me in a different way. The festival expanded my sense of what art was and could be. It rewired my sense of what human beings are capable of. Burning Man’s shock to my conceptions of art and human potential has compelled me to attend for the past 5 years. My passion for photography lies in portraiture, the capture of a single moment on the Playa. It is the art of telling a story, to know how to bring out the beauty, charisma and energy in people. I felt in love with its giant sculptures and installations, which are scattered across the enormous blank canvas of the Black Rock desert.

You are part of the art, the whole playa is an art scene. At the same time the societal norms melt away, and inhibitions melt away.
— Richard

Possible topics to complete the project

The Art

The theme of this year’s fest was “I, Robot.” Loosely inspired by Isaac Asimov’s 1950 collection of short stories published under same name.

Now, Burning Man is often a forefront of art with technological advancements.

Artists often wait to bring ideas to premiere at Burning Man, where the freedom to create and the support of creators helps to solidify these experiments. Artists now come from all over the world, often shipping their large scale-pieces on ocean liners to get them to the remote desert celebration.

The City

Every year a temporary metropolis is erected in Black Rock City, the role of architects use the desert to build all sorts of shelters in a fast, sustainable way. The desert is so remote, and everything built is packed and taken home at the end of the event, or burned on site. This poses a unique architectural challenge. The people who have come to build these structures have to plan them way in advance to accommodate all the challenges of working in the desert, but the result is worth it - a striking, unique city, democratically built, set against a desert landscape, and for only one week.

The Fashion

Burning Man has built up quite the celebrity fan base, with Karlie Kloss, Paris Hilton, Heidi Klum and Alessandra Ambrosio attending this year's festivities. All of whom brought their best 'party in the desert' outfits. From goggles to glitter and striking stomping boots, here are four trends that ruled the Black Rock Desert.

The term “cosplay” or costume play, usually with a role-playing element emerged in the 1990s from Japanese anime and theater, and it has been widely embraced by Burners.

XXL Photo Prints Under Acrylic Glass


With the ultraHD Photo Print Under Acrylic Glass, WhiteWall enables you to emphasize even the smallest details in your photo. Providing the source’s image quality is high enough to begin with, the ultraHD Photo Print remains precisely detailed – even in large formats and when viewed up close. The special development process results in completely realistic images that rival natural sight and the retina’s ability to bundle visual information into a single experience. WhiteWall achieves this level of realism through a combination of state-of-the-art technology and excellent image optimization software that analyzes images and refines image files specifically for this process. In an ultraHD Photo Print Under Acrylic Glass, the contours and details are more powerfully expressed.