Alex Rutledge

Age: 8

Hometown: Garber, OK

Number of times attended: 1

“The gifting culture is my favorite thing here. I love getting gifts and giving away gifts. Someone made me a bracelet with my name on it. I also really love the art at Burning Man, especially the Deus Ex Machina Towers art piece.”

Shea Van Dongen

Age: 10

Hometown: Whistler, Canada

Number of times attended: 6

“My dad brought me here. He let me choose between DisneyLand and Burning Man — the choice was a no brainer. I want to create an art car someday for Burning Man — maybe a tank that shoots fire!”

Evan Rutledge

Age: 11

Hometown: Garber, Oklahoma

Number of times attended: 1

“Burning Man teaches you how to let go and be yourself.”

Hannah Armer

Age: 13

Hometown: Reno, NV

Number of times attended: 7

“Burning Man means a lot of neon and a lot of dust. I love seeing all my Burning Man friends every year. It’s such a great place to have fun in.”

Emilee McHenry

Age: 16

Hometown: Reno, NV

Number of times attended: 7

“The culture and diversity has amazed me. There are so many people here from different backgrounds with different languages being spoken. It’s insane to me that all these people have flown from halfway across the world to be here.”

Alex Tholke

Age: 16

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Number of times attended: 6

“Burning Man represents freedom. Self-expression. You can show pain, sorrow, joy, happiness, grief. You’re free to self-express any way you want — the way you dress, the way you walk, through art, through speech or body language, anything you want. Everyone accepts you for who you are. It’s really hard for me to leave Burning Man every year because some of my best friends are here this week. Sometimes it’s a lot of work and driving to get here, but it’s all totally worth it.”

Brendan Carr

Age: 23

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Number of times attended: 1

“I just graduated from university a year ago and am working as an architect. I also play the trombone but brought a euphonium to play here. Right now I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Next on my agenda — traveling the world.”

“A stranger walked into our camp the other night. I ended up having a fantastic conversation with him that turned into one of the wildest nights ever. That’s one of the best things here — normally people have their guards up, but at Burning Man those walls tend to be down, which lends everyone to be more fun and open. I’ve never met so many people from so many different walks of life.”

Jascha Boyce

Age: 26

Hometown: Adelaide, Australia

Number of times attended: 1

“As a theater and circus performer, I’m on the road 11 months of the year. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but at night the playa just explodes into something else. It seems like an endless expanse.”

Aleksei Dzesiukevich

Age: 29

Home country: Belarus

Number of times attended: 1

“During the day I’m a real estate professional. As a side hobby I love running. In fact I’m doing the Chicago marathon next week!”

“The people here amaze me — I didn’t know what to expect, but everyone has been so friendly, open, and nice. All the art is also so beautiful — I totally love the Tree of Tenere art project.”

Iryna Dzesiukevich

Age: 34

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Number of times attended: 2

“The temple really moved me — it’s powerful in there. The moment I walked in I couldn’t stop crying. It’s a place for healing and the perfect place to let things go. You feel like you’re not alone because everyone is there for the same thing. Last year at the temple, a guy next to me started crying, and I just hugged him. He cried on my shoulder for 20 minutes, and then he said thank you. I felt like we really had a magical moment and that we helped each other.”

Valentina D’efilippo

Age: 34

Hometown: London, UK

Number of times attended: 1

“On the way here we googled Black Rock Desert instead of Black Rock City (the name of the city that is built for one week at Burning Man) and drove the wrong way for many hours. So it took us twice as long to get here, but it was totally worth it!”

Steven Rutledge

Age: 40

Hometown: Garber, OK

Number of times attended: 3, but this is the first time with his kids

“I wanted my kids to experience the same thing minus all the heat discomfort. First time I came it was with a tent – now I’m here with a huge dome in Kidsville – much more comfortable than a tent.”

“Oh, there’s so much that it represents. I guess I’d say magic. This is where impossible happens. I think that life is a series of magical moments that you shouldn’t let it slip away easily.”

Oswaldo Toro

Age: 46

Hometown: Bogota, Columbia

Number of times attended: 5

“I had some expectations from the photos — but every year Burning Man just blows me away with something new.”

Carolina Westers

Age: 59

Hometown: Fort Collins, CO

Number of times attended: 6

“I’m always surprised how all these massive structures are here temporarily… and that they are going to be burned at the end of the week. They spend all year building, and then it gets burned down. I love how it represents rebirth and impermanence.”

Mike Molitor

Age: 63

Hometown: Fort Collins, CO

Number of times attended: 1

“The cars and all the art are so interesting. How immense this place is. How interesting all the people are. I’ve connected with so many people deeply. I also love how the nighttime is so different from daytime. I love the sunrises the best though. Also, the dust here is just incredible.”

Joanna Chestnut

Age: 69

Hometown: Tacoma, WA

Number of times attended: 11

“I love how everyone here is here to play. In normal society, adults aren’t supposed to play — but here it’s like you’re required to play!”

Dale Chestnut

Age: 70

Hometown: Tacoma, WA

Number of times attended: 11

“I have an asian-style garden back home full of asian metal bells. We bring this one bell every year so participants can sit in the bell and ‘gong’ themselves.”

“I thought it would be a lot of bright lights, music, and partying. But every year I come, it becomes harder for me to describe it — there are so many layers to this whole thing. It connects me with the wider part of the world and basically broadens my perspective. Every time I leave Burning Man, I always have renewed hope in humankind.”

“Every time I leave Burning Man, I always have renewed hope in humankind.”

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Henry Wu
Henry Wu is a San Francisco-based travel, portrait, and lifestyle photographer. From navigating insane rush hour traffic in Hanoi via motorbike to watching Caribbean baby turtles hatch under the full moon, Henry loves to capture the moment with his lens and to convey the emotion of the moment to the viewer. Along with @zorymory, he edits the This Life of Travel digital travel publication.