Photographing Incanto: Capturing the Burn at Lewis Ginter


Burns are a cradle of creativity, acting as a metaphor for life’s experiences. Life starts and ends sooner than you’d prefer. You’ll find both old friends and strangers here. Life is born, life evolves, and then it’s time to pack and return to the so-called ‘default world.’

Creating art at a Burn is an enormous task. It involves planning, making, building, transporting, reconstructing, installing, potentially removing if not burnt, dismantling, repacking, and finally shipping it back home or to the next venue. Typically, a Burn spans a weekend or a week, with some extra time on-site for artists or teams.

Incanto Exhibition by Todd Raviotta
Gallery5 and Party Liberation Foundation’s Evening of Fire on May 12, photo by Todd Raviotta @naturalsciencetrav

The process is difficult. A friend amusingly calls it “recreationally moving.” Regardless of the environment, the reaction to art can be emotionally unpredictable. The change from night to day interacts with an artist’s work. Both the observer and the artwork are always changing, adding another metaphorical layer to life.

In these settings, I, as a photographer, struggle to remain still. I constantly move around, capturing more photos. There’s an abundance of sights and limited time.

Incanto Exhibition by Todd Raviotta
Gallery5 and Party Liberation Foundation’s Evening of Fire on May 12, photo by Todd Raviotta @naturalsciencetrav

People across the globe attend Burns for various reasons. Despite the 2020 lockdown that shook me, I can vouch for the uniqueness of these events. The art on display is both discoverable and explorable. Unlike visiting a museum or gallery, Burns have a surprise element that keeps people returning.

At a Burn, you live with a piece of art for several days, observing it at different times and under various environmental conditions. Since I started attending, I’ve found it fascinating to see how Burn art impacts the world beyond the event.

Incanto Exhibition by Todd Raviotta
‘Ancestors’ sculpture by Kate Raudenbush

Kate Raudenbush’s Incanto installation at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was an enlightening experience for me. This collection of five sculptures, viewed at the Gallery5 and Party Liberation Foundation’s Evening of Fire on May 12, blends the explorative facets of Burn Art with the beauty of a botanical garden.

Incanto Exhibition by Todd Raviotta
Signage for Incanto, An Oasis of Lyrical Sculpture

Strolling through the garden and personally experiencing each installation is captivating. At festivals or public gatherings, you inevitably overhear others. Comments like, “That’s amazing,” “You gotta do this,” “You gotta see that,” “You have to sit here,” are common.

Incanto Exhibition by Todd Raviotta
‘Source Code’ sculpture by Kate Raudenbush

This summer, I look forward to revisiting and observing how the garden’s growth interacts with the sculptures. In today’s selfie and social media-centric world, it’s intriguing to see everyone capturing their own photos.

At Burning Man or other art exhibits, people line up for their turn to take a picture. There’s a sense of patience in being part of the line, knowing you’ll have your moment. This patience allows me to wait for my shot and then move on, contributing to a shared moment of community etiquette.

Incanto by Todd Raviotta

Photography is enjoyable for many reasons. I create a unique video experience by capturing and combining pictures – a concise highlight reel of the moment. This quick succession of images, inspired by my love for 16mm super 8 home movies, offers a glimpse into my own style. I was thankful for the chance to do this again in May.

Incanto Exhibition by Todd Raviotta
Incanto Exhibition by Todd Raviotta
‘Resonate Passage’ sculpture by Kate Raudenbush

The Incanto exhibit provided an opportunity to reconnect with friends, share joy, and catch up on life. I hope others will have their own unique experiences with these works that meet them where they are.

Thank you to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for showcasing Kate Raudenbush’s Art and Sha Michele’s Words. These transformative pieces allow us in the Richmond region to explore and engage with them. Thanks to G5/PLF for the fire and sounds that night, and Joshua Crenshaw for the music in the video.

Photos by Todd Raviotta @naturalsciencetrav

Todd Raviotta

Todd Raviotta

Artist in many forms. Sharing love for cutting things up as editor and fine art collage media mixer, love of music as a DJ, and love of light in photography and video. Educator of Film Studies and Video Production for over two decades. Long time RVAmag contributor and collaborator.

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