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Behind the Camera Lens of Burning Man Photographer Peikwen Cheng

Photographer Peikwen Cheng offers us a glimpse into a dream world of creativity and imagination-defying art creations. The subject of his unearthly black and white photographs is Burning Man. The week long festival held in the hostile Nevada dessert is a celebration of creativity and radical self-expression. Burning Man welcomes all, but documentation of the event is closely guarded–Peikwen Cheng is one of the few Burning Man Creatives with permission to take photographs. Images from his ongoing series entitled Lost and Found was featured on the pages of Vogue Paris and the Magda Dansyz Gallery in Paris. The documentary series spans from 2000 to 2013 and reveals to us the hallucinating wonder of Burning Man. Peikwen bridges the gap between the Playa and the outside world and shares with us a small piece of this desert dreamland through the beauty of his photographs: Fields of metal flowers, a cowboy riding a giant rocking horse, a massive head half-submerged into the sand, burners on bicycles riding off into the all-consuming dust, and a minimalist photograph of a an empty booth inscribed with “The Oracle” behind which the endless vista of the desert stretches out into infinite white. Burning Man is the Never Never Land of the creative world. Time stops on the Playa. Anything can happen and anything is possible. Peikwen’s photographs ensure that the art and experience of Burning Man does not disappear into memory along with the ashes of the burned creations. He is the lock keeper to this Playa Never Land; a Peter Pan of sorts who renders the art of the Playa timeless.

“Lost and Found” is about dreams. It traces a journey to a distant place where people are free to realize their dreams.

While his Burning Man photographs may be his most recognized work, Peikwen’s other endeavors are no less noteworthy. His series Gai shot in Beijing, shows us the unexpectantly beautiful underbelly of the China’s industrial race. Peikwen turns cranes and construction sites into perspective twisting geometrics sculptures and juxtaposes natural and artificial lighting to create a striking compositions. In a stark contrast with the fantasy of Burning Man, his series Through the Eyes of the 22, offers a social commentary on city life captured along the route of the 22 Fillmore bus line. Using chromogenic color print as his medium, his series Less than Zero, is comprised of close-up images of ice formations taken near the Arctic Circle in Sweden. The patterns, textures and light reveal nature’s great artistry through the intuitive eye of a photographer.

While not traversing the dusty Playa with his camera in tow, Peikwen’s default-life is that of a Creative Entrepreneur. The Chinese-American artist earned a degree in product design from Stanford University, after which he went on to study business at INSEAD. His resume of exhibition and award accomplishments is impressive not to mention intimidating. Peikwen has won numerous International Photography Awards for Best in show and his photographs have been exhibited around the world from the International Photography Festival in Singapore and Paris Photo to the Griffin Museum of Photography in the United States and Photo Shanghai in China.

photographer Peikwen Cheng has an incredible eye. He sees beauty and possibility where others pay no notice. He is able to photograph smallest of nature’s patterns hidden in ice to grand industrial perspectives and landscapes. Even from afar, his photographs of people reveal a telling intimacy. With his camera lens as his third eye, Peikwen Cheng is gifted with the ability to capture that exact moment where imagination and reality collide.

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