Photographer Arthur Drooker documents hundreds of mermaids and mermen in North Carolina

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 photographer Arthur Drooker. He sees conventions not as revenue sources but as visual treasures: "To me, they’re unique expressions of community, culture and connection."

That's why he's attending a variety of conventions, the more unusual and photogenic the better, for a proposed book, Conventional Wisdom. And today, we're sharing some images from his visit to Merfest, a costumed celebration of the mythological mermaid. Held at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, North Carolina—where the group normally meets—it played host to roughly 300 merfolk at this year's convention.

"So far, 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: a 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."

Via Cool Hunting.