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Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will Roger

What started with a few people burning a human effigy on a San Francisco beach in 1986 is today’s Burning Man. Co-Founder of the festival, Will Roger shares his aerial photography of the event.

Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will Roger

Scheduled for release in April 2019, Will Roger’s book of the ever-changing cityscape of Black Rock City documents the past 14 years of the temporary city for the unique festival in the Nevada desert.

Drones have made it easier to discover the view from above, but the aerial photographs captured by Will Roger represent more than an aerial view: they are unique documents chronicling the ever-changing cityscape and transformation of Black Rock City, the temporary city for the unique festival in the Nevada desert which has become a global phenomenon with an eight day event of more than 70,000 people and associated Burning Man regional events around the world. The 2018 festival concluded on Labor Day weekend, September 3.

Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will RogerThe global family in Black Rock City

The book Compass of the Ephemeral: Aerial Photography of Black Rock City through the Lens of Will Roger, scheduled for release in April 2019, published by the Smallworks Press, will include a substantial collection of Roger’s aerial photos, revealing not only how Black Rock City expands each year, complete with typical city infrastructure, but also the innovative Burning Man art installations both of which are created and taken down year after year.

The collection also includes interpretive essays by William L. Fox, director of the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment; Alexei Vranich, American archeologist at the University of California, Berkley; Tony “Coyote” Perez-Banuet, city superintendent of Black Rock City; and an introduction by Harley K. DuBois exploring the cultural context and impact of the Burning Man festival.

Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will Roger

Exhibit at the Smithsonian

“Burning Man is a blank canvas for people to come and create on,” said Roger. “Burning Man creates a human empathy, then serendipity and creativity happens. Burning Man is the real world; everything else is the default world. People come away with changed lives and a changed culture because at Burning Man, everyone is human . . . there is no class, no color. You become family: human family, world family, global family.”

Will Roger selected the independent Smallworks Press to publish his aerial photo collection of Black Rock City and the Burning Man festival. Roger is a contributor to the current No Spectators: the Art of Burning Man exhibit at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Among his pieces are aerial photographs of Black Rock City, including the cover photo of Compass of the Ephemeral: Aerial Photography of Black Rock City through the Lens of Will Roger. The exhibit features large-scale installations – the artistic hallmark of Burning Man – and other festival items and runs through Jan. 21, 2019. The book will be published in April the same year.

Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will Roger

Will Roger’s conservation efforts

“We could not be more delighted that Will Roger chose Smallworks Press as his official publisher,” said James Stanford, founder and editor. “Since 2006, Smallworks Press has been producing exceptional visual and interpretive works that reflect the interconnectivity of art and community, a vision that Roger has made tangible each year for the past 14 years, by visually documenting the uniqueness of Burning Man and Black Rock City and by his involvement and contributions to the Burning Man culture and infrastructure.”

Will Roger discovered Burning Man in 1994, through his life partner, Crimson Rose. Together and with several others, they are co-founders of Black Rock City, LLC, the company that has produced the Burning Man event for nearly 20 years. Roger is heavily involved in conservation efforts for the Black Rock Desert, which is the United States’ largest National Conservation Area (NCA), and which is home to the Burning Man event. Will Roger is also an accomplished photographer; and for nearly 20 years, he served at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., as a photo chemist, administrator, associate professor, and assistant director.

Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will Roger Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will Roger Burning Man seen from the sky: the photography of Will Roger


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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