A few years ago, my friend asked me if I would like to join him in destroying his old broken double bass on a beach in northern Michigan. He had told me he didn’t want to just leave it for the garbage men and that he wanted to stick it in the sand and torch it. The bass was broken beyond repair and it was time to put the old girl down in a spectacular blaze at the water’s edge. I immediately said yes, because in addition to really appreciating a good beach fire, I immediately saw the opportunity to photograph the event.
So we packed up the car with the bass, a small can of gasoline, a lighter, some cameras and a few people and drove to the shore of Lake Michigan one beautiful summer evening. I brought my 4X5 Graflex Crown Graphic camera, a Nikon 35ti point and shoot, and a Holga loaded with Ilford black and white film.
We had the beach pretty much to ourselves and after a few tries, the bass finally ignited with the help of a little gasoline. It burned elegantly and brilliantly for a few short minutes, and I shot a lot of film. I ended up with this 6X7 image made on Fuji Velvia transparency film. I had attached the 6X9 roll film back to the Crown Graphic so that I could shoot more quickly because I knew the burn wouldn’t last very long. I figured I needed to shoot a lot because the opportunity to photograph a full size double bass, burning on a beach at magic hour doesn’t come around all that often.
The dried out old broken bass burned very quickly of course and there wasn’t much left in the sand but the neck, which totally defied our attempts to incinerate it.
“Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”