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Conventional Wisdom

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. Conventional Wisdom chronicles American photographer Arthur Drooker’s travels across the U.S. to ten of the more unusual 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.

In his introduction to the companion publications, Drooker writes: “After immersing myself for more than a year in these wildly diverse gatherings—from santas to sadists, 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.”

About the artist: Arthur Drooker is the author and photographer of American Ruins (Merrell, 2007), Lost Worlds: Ruins of the Americas (ACC, 2011), and Pie Town Revisited (UNM Press, 2015). His work has been the subject of a feature story on CBS Sunday Morning and has been exhibited at the Virginia Center for Architecture, the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, the Wichita Museum of Art, and the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C., among other institutions. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in American Civilization, Drooker imbues his photography with an understanding of and appreciation for cultures past and present. In addition to being a photographer and author, Drooker has also been a writer-producer-director of television documentaries for the History Channel and A&E. His award winning efforts include biographies of Martin Luther King, James Dean, and Annie Oakley, as well as marquee specials about West Point, and The American Revolution.

Conventional Wisdom contains approximately 40 color images and is accompanied by the companion publication (Glitterati, August 22, 2016). Image labels and expanded text will be provided in a digital format.

Listen o a TEDxSoMa talk by Arthur Drooker about Conventional Wisdom!