Conventional Wisdom by Arthur Drooker

An exclusive sneak peek at a new photo series about convention attendees


We’ve been following photographer Arthur Drooker‘s work since his 2010 American Ruins gallery show and book. The Mill Valley, California-based artist’s infrared imagery mystifies with its modern approach to capturing mythic, decayed structures. We caught up with him recently and he briefed us on his new project.

This time, people are the focus of his lens for “Conventional Wisdom.” Drooker plans on attending conventions across the United States to capture the inner-workings of dedicated, passionate and sometimes surprising, communities, all in service to his next proposed book. We’re excited to share exclusive sneak peeks from his explorations, as the “Conventional Wisdom” trek unfolds.

lincoln-3.jpg lincoln-4.jpg

The convention industry supports over a million people and drives billions of dollars in spending and tax revenue. That isn’t what drew Drooker to the project, however. According to the artist, “I see conventions not as revenue sources but as visual treasures. To me they’re expressions of community, culture and connection. That’s why over the next year I plan to attend at least 15 conventions—the more unusual and photogenic the better—and document them.” He’s got a list of 50 possible conventions so far—found through research and suggestions—and is working for a short list of around 15; the filter is “their unusualness and visual potential.”

His journey commenced with the Association of Lincoln Presenters (ALP), an organization unified by the members’ love of Abraham Lincoln. Held this year in Columbus, Ohio, 150 people gathered in the name of Honest Abe—and dressed like him, as well. The group’s mission is to deliver real looking Lincolns to reenactments, parades, schools and more. Each convention includes an educational element, and focuses on honing and refreshing all things pertaining to the history of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. Drooker’s images don’t cast judgment. They trap moments, represent his unique observation, and at times, reflect his admiration for the devout attendees.


“The initial seed of the idea came about while researching another potential photo
project—a series on historical reenactors. I came across the Association of Lincoln
Presenters website and saw that they held an annual convention,” Drooker explained. “I thought, that’s it! Conventions! The more unusual and visual the better. Immediately, I
switched projects.”

That’s just the start of his book in the making. The concept envelops so much life and personality and as Drooker notes, these conventions “satisfy a basic human urge: a longing for belonging.” We’re glad his eye will be documenting it, and that Cool Hunting readers will get to go along for the ride. Stay tuned for his next stops, which include the World Taxidermy and Fish Carving Championships.

Photos courtesy of Arthur Drooker