Each year, according to a Convention Industry Council study, there are 1.8 million conventions, conferences, and trade shows in the United States. These gatherings directly support 1.7 million jobs, $263 billion in spending, and $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue. As impressive as these figures are, they don't interest me as a photographer. I see conventions not as revenue sources but as visual treasures. To me, they're unique expressions of community, culture and connection. That’s why I attended a variety of conventions–the more unusual and photogenic the better–for my book, Conventional Wisdom.
The wisdom I've gained from this project has shown me that regardless of what they're about, where they're held or who attends them, all conventions satisfy a basic human urge: the longing for belonging. At conventions, people who share similar interests, even obsessions, come together to bond and to be themselves. The outside world doesn't matter. In fact, for the weekend duration of most conventions, the outside world doesn't even exist. The conventioneers have each other and that's all they need. An attendee I met at the taxidermist convention expressed it best. “This isn’t a convention,” he said. “It’s a family reunion.”