Conventional Wisdom: World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships

The second installment of Arthur Drooker's photo series on convention attendees


We recently took you to the Association of Lincoln Presenters annual assembly, by way of photographer Arthur Drooker‘s camera lens. Drooker has been dropping by some of the convention industry’s most eccentric gatherings in an effort to capture never-before-seen moments. Inspired by the passionate dedication and camaraderie of these attendees, Drooker is trekking along a path toward his new book and, once again, we’ve been invited.

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The second stop on Drooker’s “Conventional Wisdom” exploration happens to be the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships, billed as the “Greatest Taxidermist Show on Earth.” The five-day convention seeks to educate and inspire people both within and outside of the world of taxidermy. Drooker managed to find both, and convey it with this photo set; a collection of images equally concerned with the attendees as their products.

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The ballroom of Springfield, Illinois’ Crowne Plaza Hotel morphed into a wilderness backdrop with animals becoming still-lifes. Mounted fish and fowl met mammals from many continents. This was a rare opportunity to see all types of animals peacefully coexisting, clearly because they’re no longer living. “Very little is truly authentic here,” Drooker notes. Most often, antlers and fur are the only parts of the animal preserved post-hunt. According to Drooker, “Everything else is man-made.”

That said, Drooker wandered the aisles “marveling at how life-like the molded foam manikins, glass eyes and plastic tongues look.” He further learned that a quality line is drawn where a discerning taxidermist can pinpoint who is interested taxidermy and who is interested in the animals. The latter provides a true soul for the subject matter. As Drooker recounts, “there is an art to taxidermy, but not every taxidermist is an artist.”


Both Drooker and his photos convey that the taxidermists were “a hearty, friendly bunch whose fingers are just as comfortable on a trigger as they are on a suture needle.” And once again, certain images demonstrate that there is a bond that develops between people who attend conventions. People have been unified by a highly specialized interest. Drooker was there to take us all in.

Cool Hunting was invited to follow Arthur Drooker behind the scenes as he continues to survey and photograph conventions around the US. All images in this ongoing series are by Arthur Drooker.