Between July 2013 and January 2015, we were honored to publish the work of photographer Arthur Drooker as he developed installments within a rather unique series known as Conventional Wisdom. Drooker traveled the US, attending obscure conventions and capturing images with curiosity and respect. His ultimate goal was to produce a book and now, thanks to publishing house Glitterati, he has done exactly that. “Conventional Wisdom” encompasses the photographer’s multi-year journey and the fascinating worlds he discovered. For us, who watched it unfold, it feels as relevant, powerful and quirky as when Drooker filed his images after each stage. For most, it will be an entryway into a range of unexpected gatherings and entrancing characters.
“This book was not only a great creative experience but it was also in some ways a profound personal experience,” Drooker explains to CH. “I was truly, and continue to be, inspired by the passion and fearlessness of these conventioneers. They really put it out there. They are all in.” The experience was thrilling. Drooker explains the value in forging these friendships and gaining the knowledge he wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. He also notes, “I think it’s the best work I’ve done.”
As for what unifies the work, Drooker nods back to his introduction. “In spite of their apparent differences, in who attends and what it’s all about, all of these conventions satisfy a basic human urge, which is the longing to belong,” he says. “An Abraham Lincoln might not having anything to do with the interests of a fetishist, but in their respective communities, it’s the same thing in its essence. People with strong passions, and obsessions even, sharing with likeminded people.”
Drooker’s journey—and now the book—brings viewers into tightly woven niche communities. It all began with Abraham Lincolns, and ended with mermaids. Between, Drooker was granted access to clowns and fetishes, Bronies and those in the world of taxidermy. He charts the impact of commerce on these affairs, but also camaraderie. Drooker captured this, their spirit and the inherent beauty of people living freely as their true selves—and being accepted for it.
“Conventional Wisdom” is available for pre-order online now for $35.
Book images by Cool Hunting