America’s Strangest Conventions

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For the last three years, American photographer Arthur Drooker has been to a dozen conventions across the country, photographing some of the quirkiest gatherings such as mermaids, clowns, Santas, fetishists and Lincoln look-alikes. Yet, he has barely begun. According to one estimate, America olds a staggering 1.8 million conventions, conferences, and trade shows every year. That’s nearly 5,000 conventions every day! These unusual gatherings allow like-minded people to congregate, bond, and express themselves.

“Regardless of what they’re about, where they’re held or who attends them, all conventions satisfy a basic human urge: a longing for belonging,” says Arthur Drooker. “At conventions, people who share similar interests, even obsessions, come together to bond and to be themselves without fear, apology or explanation. The outside world doesn’t matter. In fact, for the weekend duration of most conventions, the outside world doesn’t even exist.”

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Association of Lincoln Presenters, Natchez, Mississippi, 2014.

Drooker’s intention is to capture these “unique expressions of community, culture and connection” and document them in his upcoming book “Conventional Wisdom”, scheduled to be released later this month.

Drooker ventures deep into the heart of these often zany subsets of American popular culture, conducting intimate interviews with attendees, shooting stunning photographs and complementing them with humorous and insightful texts. His images are a combination of portraits, group shots, and documentary-style photos of unusual sights and situations.

Drooker avoids oversaturated events like ComicCon or Star Trek. Instead, he looks for very niche subjects with grassroots following, such as the Association of Lincoln Presenters, the first convention he attended. Drooker would sometimes pay multiple visit to the same convention to gather valuable insight into the sense of community that brings participants back year after year.

“At least 50 percent of me was very eager to return to these conventions because there’s a genuine buzz that takes place there, and I missed that,” the photographer confessed.

All of these photographs are from the book “Conventional Wisdom” by Arthur Drooker. Copyright © 2016, published by Glitterati Incorporated.

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Association of Lincoln Presenters, Columbus, Ohio, 2013.

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Santa Drill Team, Santa Celebration, Tampa, Florida, 2013.

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Beard Bleaching, Santa Celebration, Tampa, Florida, 2014.

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Brony Parade, BronyCon, Baltimore, 2013.

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At Ease, Military History Fest, St. Charles, Illinois, 2014.

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Maksim the Yellow Tailed Sea Witch, Merfest, Cary, North Carolina, 2015.

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Mermaid Matrimony, Merfest, Cary, North Carolina, 2015.

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Zoo, Anthrocon, Pittsburgh, 2014.

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Clown Cluster, World Clown Association, Northbrook, Illinois, 2014.

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BronyCon, Baltimore, 2013.

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World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships, Springfield, Illinois

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Fetish Con, at Tampa Hilton, Florida

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Bonding, Fetish Con, at Tampa Hilton, Florida

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