There seem to be conventions for every kink these days: Comic-Con, FanimeCon, DragonCon. But The Conventioneers, a project that photographer Yvette Marie Dostatni started more than a decade ago, gives shape to the true breadth of American convention culture. From Abe Lincoln lookalikes to the mink coat-wearers at the Players Ball for pimps, from clowns to swinger moms, the subjects of Dostatni’s project are deeply American in their diversity and eccentricity. For The Conventioneers, the Chicago-native photographer visited more than 20 conventions around the country to capture the unique layers, languages and rules of convention culture, and somehow, despite the weirdness, she always felt accepted. Today, she’s raising funds to attend a few more conventions and release her first book. She joined R&K from her home in Chicago.
Roads & Kingdoms: What is it about conventions that fascinate you?
Yvette Marie Dostatni: I started by going to a dog show back in 2002, and I saw these nuns go downstairs, they were surrounded by bikers. I thought that was pretty interesting so I just followed them into a biker convention. That’s when I started photographing bikers and I got to photograph the One Percenters Motorcycle Club, who never let themselves be photographed. When I looked at the negatives, I thought it was an interesting slice of American culture, how people get together for two, three days with others who are just like them.