There are nearly two million conventions, conferences, and trade shows each year in the United States, and each offers the opportunity for like-minded people to congregate, bond, and express themselves. The book Conventional Wisdom (Glitterati, August 22, 2016) chronicles American photographer Arthur Drooker’s travels across the U.S. to ten of the quirkiest conventions, including gatherings for mermaids and mermen, furries, santas, fetishists, and Lincoln presenters. Venturing behind the scenes, Drooker goes deep into the heart of these often zany subsets of American popular culture where for a weekend each year, the outside world no longer exists.
Drooker’s camera here captures the sense of community, culture, and connection that embodies these events where people from all walks of life and around the world, are free to explore their “outer selves” without fear of being judged. Drooker’s humorous and insightful text, including intimate interviews with attendees, complement the vibrant photographs made over a three-year period (2013-2015).
In his introduction to the book, Drooker writes: “After immersing myself for more than a year in these wildly diverse gatherings, I emerged with some unconventional wisdom: While Americans like to promote themselves as rugged individualists, they’re happiest when amongst their own and accepted for who they really are. Nowhere is this wisdom more openly revealed and joyfully observed than at conventions.”
Conventional Wisdom proves that regardless of what they’re about, where they’re held, or who attends them, all conventions satisfy a basic human urge: a longing to belong. Those who share similar interests, even obsessions, come together to be themselves, while forging new relationships and joining a larger community.
From the ballrooms to the vendor rooms to the guest rooms, Drooker’s ubiquitous camera documents the essence and exuberance of these annual gatherings. An attendee Drooker met at the taxidermist convention expressed it best. “This isn’t a convention,” he said. “It’s a family reunion.”
Arthur Drooker, Conventional Wisdom