How many of you knew that there was a Burn going on in GA the last weekend of September? Not many I imagine. What’s a Burn you ask? Well maybe you’ve heard of Burning man… or maybe not.
Alchemy is a regional burn festival that follows the 10 guiding principles of a burn - radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leave no trace, participation, and immediacy. All wrapped up in a amazingly open festival focused on art installations, community and a giant tent city!
It took place up near Lafayette GA, 6 hours from Savannah but it was well worth the trip. I set out late Thursday night to begin my adventure – solo. Just me, my tent and my trusty photo gear ready to meet new friends and experience what this mini burn was all about. After some brief struggling with the directions and at 1am in the morning I arrived on the farm tired but excited. Little did I know what amazing weirdness and adventure the weekend was to have in store for me.
After setting up my camp next to a glowing blue stripper pole – figured these guys might be on to something – I grabbed a bottle of wine and made my way about the still active camp. There were lights, and dub music emitting from everywhere and it was now 3am! Apparently Burners never sleep. After a few hours of wandering I came back to camp and passed blissfully out for 3 hours.
The next day I met the gents near me and in the spirit of the burn I proceeded to help them set up their camp – a giant 30×50 tarp in 25mph winds. It took us six hours but man it was worth it! I re learned the art of tying a half hitch, and had an amazing lunch that involved shrimp cocktails and summer sausage. Ahh… bliss.
That night the camp next to us, put on a laser show that erupted all across the massive acreage of the burn – drawing contour lines across the tens of acres and throwing patterns and color over the tent city. It was wonderful, stunning and beautiful to watch. Lots of cash went into that hobby and the show was well worth it. The burn was now in full swing and everywhere was jumping. Music, dancing, singing, everyone was happy, open and relaxed. The spirit of community was high and radical self-expression was in overload. There were belly dancers, nudists, ravers, old and young all around, all participating, all just being, all enjoying the tree.
This year the peeps at Alchemy set up a unique community puzzle that once solved the main burn of the effigy would be lit and all sorts of wonderful explosive mayhem would ensue. Saturday day towards the end of the afternoon the puzzle got solved and the burning of the effigy commenced – a giant 3 story structure made up of doors burned gloriously in the waning sunlight. You could feel the power of the crowd erupt as the structure finally crumbled in on itself and then once the heat dwindled the rest of us danced around the coals to celebrate. Tomorrow we would all begin to part ways, but that night… that night we would celebrate till the sun came up!
The morning brought clarity from the joy and fogginess of the night before and with a warm, but slightly heavy heart I packed up my camp, said my goodbyes and headed back home. The drive brought deep reflections on the weekends merriment and what it all means to be alive, to be an artist, to be a human. And what I came up with was this – Life is all about expression. The closer we come to touching on our own truths and then expressing those truths to the world the closer we come to being truly human. Humanity is expression. That is what Alchemy taught me this year.
Here are a ton of shots from the weekend - BE WARNED some of these are NSFW and contain nudity. This was an open event where such behavior was encouraged and welcomed. The photos were taken in part as a record of said event and are meant to present an editorial/artistic view of the festival. In no way am I condoning or condemning any of the behavior or activities of said individuals they take full responsibility for their actions. I am simply recording them and portraying them in the best possible light in view of the principles of the burn. Enjoy!