Conventional Wisdom, by Arthur Drooker – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer
Conventional Wisdom, by Arthur Drooker. Foreword by James Wollcott.
NYC, Glitterati Inc., August 2016, hardcover $50.00 (191 [+ 1] pages).
This is a de luxe coffee-table art book of photographs by Arthur Drooker, an award-winning documentary and fine-art photographer/author whose work has been exhibited since 1980, and whose studies have been called “visual poetry”. For ConventionalWisdom, Drooker spent three years up to 2015 visiting “quirky” conventions throughout the U.S. “held by some unusual interest groups”. Each convention has about twenty pages devoted to it.
Drooker claims in his Introduction that a Convention Industry Council study shows that there are 1.8 million conventions, conferences, meetings, and trade shows in the U.S. every year. This book presents some of the most photographically exotic of these. As you have doubtlessly guessed, furry fandom is one of these unusual interest groups. So are the Bronies. Each is covered by Drooker; Anthrocon at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, and Bronycon at the Baltimore Convention Center. Each convention has an introduction of about four pages by Drooker.
His description of Anthrocon and of furry fandom is sympathetic and accurate. He calls Anthrocon possibly the highlight of his year for its exuberance and “international spirit of being friends, like a big family.” (p. 152) He also calls his posed two-page spread photograph of Thumpie Bunny Eve lounging atop a grand piano (pgs. 162-163) “one of the best in Conventional Wisdom.”
The book’s cover shows the Association of Lincoln Presenters, which meets at the Airport Ramada Inn in Columbus, Ohio. Other special-interest conventions are Vent Haven, for ventriloquists with large dummies (like Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy), Santa Celebration for Santa Claus suit wearers, Fetishcon for people who cater to weird tastes (one model who specializes in bringing clients’ fetishes to life “has covered her head in cake frosting, sloshed around in a kiddy pool filled with oatmeal, and maybe strangest of all, stomped on a village made of Play-Doh á la Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.” (p. 83), Military History Fest for warfare re-enactors, World Clown Association, World Taxidermy Championships, and Merfest, for swimmers in mermaid and mermen fishtails.
At least some of these conventions seem semi-professional. Others like Anthrocon and Bronycon are entirely for the fans of their interest group. Anthrocon may be the largest, as is shown in a double-page photo of over a thousand fursuiters with Drooker’s text claiming over 6,000 attendees. These are not professional mascots whose suit expenses may have been paid by an organization. These are individual fursuits that may have cost their furry fans over a thousand dollars each.
In any case, these are all gorgeous fine-art photographs. Come for the furries and the Bronies, and maybe the merfolk, and stay to enjoy the rest.