Rituals are important.  They always have been, and these days are more important than ever.

Coming to NILMDTS

In 2018, I joined NILMDTS after the PPA Imaging USA Conference in Nashville.  I had heard of similar organizations for some time prior and attended the NILMDTS session during the conference.  I saw this as a way to give back and use my retouching skills as a gift to these families.

Burning Man

Burning Man is an annual event, held on a dry lakebed, outside of Gerlach, Nevada.  The event has its loudest moment during the burning of the man on the Saturday of Labor Day.  Seventy-thousand participants, loud music, and fireworks.  The party runs all night.

Burning Man is the site of many pieces of extraordinary art.  One of those is the temple.  Designed by a different team each year, the temple is volunteer designed and built.  The temples are massive wood structures and can be over 40 feet high and over one hundred feet wide.

Photograph courtesy of Grant Palmer

The temple is a quiet place of reflection.  Attendees place memorials, trinkets, and other items into the temple over the course of the week.  It is a place to let go.  On the Sunday of Labor Day, the day after the man burns, the temple also burns.

Where the man burn is raucous, loud, and cacophonous, the temple burn is completely silent.  Seventy-thousand people, together, in total silence, grieving together and for one another.  It is beautiful and moving.

Photograph courtesy of Grant Palmer

I began attending the Burning Man event in 2013 as a photographer for the fire performers who dance before the man burns and am now one of the photographers for the event.

Photograph courtesy of Grant Palmer


I had started retouching sessions in May and Burning Man 2018 was approaching.  I had seen many photographers and retouchers share how they commemorate the sessions they do.  Many use butterflies, and I like the imagery.  I also wanted a way to release these babies and their families.  The temple was the perfect place, and that year saw 14 origami butterflies attached to the structure.  That Sunday thousands grieved with me and helped me let them go.

Photograph courtesy of Grant Palmer

The concept is simple: folded paper butterflies, one for each retouched session with a few extras to account for twins, no names, no affiliations, no words.  No one knows the reason or the affiliation.

2019 saw 50 butterflies

Photograph courtesy of Grant Palmer

This year, there was no event due to COVID-19, but the release and solace I gain from the act of folding the butterflies, and then releasing them was important.  So, I made a netting of rainbow-colored twine about 6’ x 3’ and sewed each butterfly to it.  On the night that would have been the temple burn, my partner, Sherilyn and I sat together and had our own ceremony.

Photographs courtesy of Grant Palmer

A hundred butterflies this year.  The rest is smoke and embers.  Farewell, little ones.

Grant Palmer is a portrait photographer and compositor in Los Angeles.  For NILMDTS, he is a Digital Retouch Artist and a member of the Membership Application Committee.

Remembrance Portraits
Medical Affiliate Program