Updated 4:03Â am, Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Since Burning Man has a reputation as a wild hedonistic party with rampant nudity and drug use, you might assume Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in late August isn’t an appropriate spot for kids.
Zipporah Lomax, 39, a photographer living in Portland, Ore., is likely to change your thinking with her dreamy photographs showing children delighted by the whimsical art amid the Playa’s dust.
Lomax has attended the event 13 times since 2000 and focused her lens on children, capturing their magical experiences and celebrating their fantastical play. Her images taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, using a wide-open lens, have an ethereal quality, with her subjects in focus and set against blurred, fuzzy backgrounds.
In one photo a mom and her children sit atop a giant rocking zebra, and in another a toddler has a huge smile across his face in the claws of a dragon art car.
Lomax doesn’t have her own children, but she’s child No. 5 in a family of six kids and often cares for her eight nieces and nephews. She’s naturally drawn to children and at the festival she appreciates how they open their hearts more easily and readily to the Playa’s creative culture and natural environment.
“Kids already exist in these beautiful imaginative worlds,” Lomax explained in an interview. “They haven’t boxed themselves into these restrictive ideals. They don’t have the same distance to travel to just relax into the experience. Kids tend to be more in the moment. They’re less worried about the dust and what’s getting into their hair. They know how to have fun and play.”
Lomax’s images also celebrate the parents who bring their little ones to Burning Man and her collection includes touching family portraits with moms and dads embracing their children.
“All of the Burner parents I’ve met are the most present, relaxed, engaged parents I’ve ever met,” Lomax said. “There are things they can teach their kids there about community and generosity that would be so much more difficult to teach at home.”
Burning Man organizers have never tracked the number of children on the Playa but welcome families with a Family Camp and a thoughtful, tip-filled Family Survival Guide available online.Â Founder Larry Harvey brought his own child to the first event in 1986 and doesn’t charge children under 12 to encourage them to attend and help create a multi-generational community.
Lomax believes the span of ages, from babies to elders, makes Burning Man unique compared to other festivals that attract a narrow range of ages. “I think it’s such a gift parents are giving to the community when they bring their children,” Lomax says. “Burning Man is family friendly. I think that’s something people don’t know. There’s this softer side of the event that hasn’t been honored.”
Lomax plans to recognize the children with a fine-art photography book featuring images of kids and their parents on the Playa.Â Earlier this year, she announced her plans via a Kickstarter campaign, raising nearly $48,000 with 448 backers from all over the world. She plans to publish Dusty Playground in June 2016.
“Meandering beneath all that impressive art…woven amongst all those expressive adults rediscovering more carefree, imaginative parts of themselves, are the beautiful children who haven’t yet forgotten,” Lomax wrote on her Kickstarter page. “This book is for them â€“ for the Littlest Burners, and the amazingly generous parents who gift us with their presence.”
In the future, Lomax also hopes to publish a book celebrating the festival’s elders and has launched a campaign to fund that project. “Without the children and the elders it wouldn’t be a true community,” Lomax said. “I think this is what sets this event apart from other festivals. Black Rock is a city and there are people of all ages and people from all walks of life.Â “