Philippe Glade Photographer of The Architecture of Burning Man

Episode 6 – Philip Glade

Welcome back focused audience!

Today’s guest Philippe Glade. He is a French born and raised, photographer that focuses on the architecture and dwellings of Black Rock City the ephemeral city of Burning Man. A photographer for over 30 years and an author of three books of photography.

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006 Philippe Glade | Photographer In Focus with John David Tupper

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When I saw Glade’s work I initially didn’t understand what he was bringing to the table however it just kept on gnawing at me because it was so uniquely different! Focusing on the dwellings of Burning Man is not something anyone else I’ve seen do out there. The two common things to focus on would be the people and the arts and in this interview you will learn that Philippe does not focus on the people of Burning Man.

Photographic Background

Philippe Glade has traveled the world from deserts to rich tropical flora, taking pictures of botanicals and other organic forms.

Philippe caught the eye of Sunset Magazine in the mid 1990’s with his pictures of flowers and other botanicals. As he continued to work for the magazine he built up an extensive botanical body of work.

His Fine Art Body of Work is The Imaginary Gardens, a provocative reshaping of nature.

From his early photographic work two books of botanical photography “Brilliance” and “In Bloom” were published by Chronicle Books. (both out of print)

Still working on botanical photography, he has plans to publish a new book in the near future.

What kind of training did you have?

I was a Lawyer. I came to United States to learn English and ended up staying.

Living in San Francisco, you must have learned about Burning Man early, because that’s where it came from?

Yes. It was early on I saw a picture, Black and white of a figure by photographer Joshua H. Hawkins, it was a figure in the desert that was uniquely American. That place I really wanted to go to.

Captivated by this image he really set out to go there. The image was uniquely Americana. When in 93 he saw this strange image, he thought “Oh my God! I need to find the place where this image was made! I have to go!” Later he saw Richard Misrach’s the Desert Cantos, a series of desert pictures, that includes the Black Rock Desert, that sealed Philippe’s need to go.

In 1996 working in the Mission District in San Francisco he saw a flyer and bought a ticket for $30. Then set out to the desert with the intention of shooting this strange figure of the Burning Man.

Once Philppe’s tires set down on the playa of the Black Rock Desert he was in love with the landscape and the sense of adventure.

“I was bitten from that moment!”

What did you see? It was the first official theme year, HellCo. How was it?

At the time it was just for the weekend. On burn night everything was burning! It was surreal! I could feel the electricity in the air and the camps burning everywhere.

Just recently I came across a quote, “If you didn’t go to Burning Man 1996, then you didn’t go to Burning Man!”

The art of Burning Man is just now catching on as real art.

“I could see that everything around me at Burning Man was art so I went to document everything around me that I felt was interesting in the city. So from the very beginning, I shot non stop!”

Philippe started snapping pictures of shelters because he was so ashamed of his own camps set up and was looking for inspiration and ideas.

“I shot pictures of other camps just to document for myself on how to put things together to have a good shelter.”

From this distinctly personal project he started thinking that each structure had its own label. That there was architectural elements to the way that people set up their camps.

Structural Elements of Black Rock City;

  • Tents
  • Hexayurts
  • Monkey Huts
  • Yurts
  • Parachutes & Fabrics
  • Trailers & RVs
  • Wood and Metal Frames
  • Shipping Containers
  • Art Installations
  • Mutant Vehicles
  • Night Scapes
  • Esplanade Camps

After years of documenting these elements of good camps Philippe started seeing that the architecture of Burning Man was it’s own subject matter and from this spawned the project of capturing The city of the Burning Man, Black Rock City.

Storm Clouds and Tent on Playa

The Lone Tent by Philippe Glade

(Picture 1- lone tent in walking camping)

This image of the lone tent, first of all it’s the cover of his book “Black Rock City, NV: The Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man”. He caught it right before the sun set. As storm clouds loomed in the sky.

The image is used as a metaphor of the experience of one person. In fact when everybody goes to Black Rock City it’s a one-man or a one woman experience. It’s a solitary experience among a universal experience but at the core it’s just you, it’s just one experience.”

The above link is to the book as it appears on Amazon. I have it here because Philippe speaks about people reselling this rare printing as a collectable and I thought you might want to check out current going price for fun. It is an affiliate link but I’m not sure it helps the podcast if you buy, but it might.

Shade Art At Burning Man

Flight of The Future 2006 Fabric Shade Structure

(Picture 2 – flight of the future.)

Fabric Sail Like Structure. It’s minimalist that plays with the wind and the surrounding landscape.

“Great fabric structure to play with the wind!”

Keep your mind open, so you can see. The job of a photographer is to first see the world with your vision of it and second convey or share what we see with the viewer.

“When I am at Burning Man I do not shoot people. I do not take pictures of people because I’m too busy shooting arts, the dwellings and the architecture. ”

Philippe’s work is on the Burning Man Gallery.

When did you start getting recognition for you work?

Recognition is a big word, it came through the flower photography but I’m not well known for my Burning Man photography because there are so many good really really good photographers who go.

Philippe describes himself as not tech savvy, not good at marketing. But he tries to follow up with the architectural community and share his project every chance he gets.

In Fact, Philippe’s gift to the Burning Man community, To burners, is his blog and it’s worth a trip to check it out. It truly is captivating!

There is another thing that you will find on Philippe’s Blog that was not addressed on the podcast, the Golden Rebar Awards.

From what I gather it’s a prize for bringing the most creative out of the box solutions to the structures on the playa. A coveted prize, presented by Philippe Glade himself each year.

You self published your book, how did that come about?

He created a publishing entity and published 1000 copies. Now sold out but on Amazon there is a good business of people reselling this rare book. At the time of podcast release it’s selling for over $200 (see link above).

Doing this for so many years, can you share the structure of your camp? The setup, camp tips, stuff that could be helpful for people packing for Burning Man?

  • Nothing on the ground, bring tables.
  • Keep the playa dust in the desert.

What kind of photographic gear do you pack for Burning Man and how do you protect it?

One camera a Nikon D7000 and one lens a Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 Lens with tape and plastic bag. While not shooting the camera stays in a bag to keep the dust off.

Again go to Philippe’s site for more of Burning Man’s creative dwellings. This is for everyone who doesn’t roam the streets of the city and never gets to see these structures of the the city.

Zonotpia by Rob Bell

Zonotpia by Rob Bell and Playa at Sunset

(Picture 3 – New book cover)

There’s this moment in the evening when the magical light hits the playa and it’s about 25 minutes long. During this time Philippe rushes out to the open playa where all the art is and that is where this piece was captured, Zonotpia by Rob Bell.

I was excited to hear that this image will grace the cover of Philippe’s soon to be released next book of playa architecture. In this next book he is making it better, with better pictures, design, and a couple guest essays. It’s definitely going to be a book to share with your playa friends.

“The book will be better and Burnier!” -Philippe Glade

Look for it! It’s coming out very soon! Keep an eye out on Philippe’s blog for it release. Thanks Philippe for sharing this exciting news with us all!

Side Note – About Photographer In Focus Podcast

Here’s a question you might have wondered. What’s with all the Burning Man talk?

This show is not about Burning Man or Burning Man Photography but it is about is art and photography and how the two come together. It’s about what raises photography to be on the walls of museums and galleries.

Each photographer goes through great personal expense, time and energy to produce their body of work that they’re sharing here there’s no corporate entity paying them to to come out and produce this work. It truly is made for the love of the craft and the work itself!

However, there’s something really special about the Black Rock Desert. It is the fact that it starts with a blank slate and empty canvas of sorts. This beautiful landscape of flat dried lakebed invites creativity and the creativity it produces invites even more creativity. Which creates the cauldron of the most creative place on earth.

It is it’s own museum it is it’s own muse, for one week a year it is the center of creative thought on Earth. That is why Elon musk and Sergey Brin and Larry Page Of Google and many other leaders of the top technical companies in the world believe that everybody should go to Burning Man at least once. To tap into this creativity taps into the out of the box thinking and energizes the soul.

I hope you are enjoying these first few shows. If you know of any photographers who fit, feel free to contact me. Thanks for listening!

If you have any comments please use the comment section below. Please take a moment to give the show a rating by using the links to iTunes and Sticher at the top of this post. Thank You!

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