A. Leo Nash, "Shelley Hades Vaca's Mirrorage", Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, 1997, Iris print

A. Leo Nash, “Shelley Hades Vaca’s Mirrorage”, Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, 1997, Iris print

A. Leo Nash

For the past ten years I have been photographing a large array of alternative gatherings and celebrations around the United States. Inspired by the natural light and fervor of these temporary encampments, I use my camera to forge a new perspective on the world of the participants and these temporary villages, which have become known as “temporary autonomous zones”.  

The largest gathering, the Burning Man Festival, has attracted worldwide attention. While the media tends to only show the most sensationalistic side of the festivals – nudity, burning artwork, and the four story structure that is “Burning Man” – I look to reveal a community and a landscape where liberation from such media and the value of self expression take center stage. It’s a place where everyone is encouraged to be a participant, rather than a spectator. 

Joseph Campbell, the noted mythology scholar and writer, talked about there being a new mythology emerging on the planet that he couldn’t yet grasp. The participant oriented gatherings depicted in this project give a glimpse at the form these mythologies are taking during their gestation. Myth and ritual play an important role, and celebrations are researched and given life, as many of the participants seek new ways to reconnect with a spiritual essence. 

A. Leo Nash grew up in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. After graduating from high school, Leo followed his life long passion for traveling while also attending Clark University and Rochester Institute of Technology. Bitten by the photography bug early on, he naturally took his camera everywhere he went. In 1990 Leo moved to the West coast and began to document the alternative rituals and gatherings of the underground culture that had been flourishing in San Francisco since the 1950s. He pursued his fascination with the physiology of human relations by studying at both Berkeley Psychic Institute and the Aesclepion Healing Center in San Rafael, California. Nash began showing his photographs professionally in 1991 and has since had exhibitions of his work at venues including the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Oakland Museum, the Houston Center for Photography, the Philadelphia Print Center, Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, and the SOMAR Cultural Center in San Francisco. His photographs are in the collections of the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Art Institute; and have been published in Contact Sheet, Photo Metro, the Photo Review, SPIN, the Village Voice, San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Boston Globe, and Boston Phoenix.