Every year die-hard fans of the horrorcore rap group The Insane Clown Posse travel to the rural midwest for a four day music festival. These devoted fans call themselves Juggalos, and their annual event is appropriately known as The Gathering of the Juggalos. It’s sort of like the Juggalo Woodstock. Some bring the whole family, some come to drink and take drugs, some come to just hang out, and many paint their faces in black and white clown make up, the trademark style of ICP and other acts on their label Psychopathic Records.
Since it emerged in the late 1990s, Juggalo culture has been both embraced and mocked for an over the top aesthetic and style of dress that combines aspects of hip-hop, pro wrestling and slasher movies. In addition, the biggest proponents of Juggalo culture, ICP front men Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, have been favorite targets of pundits like Bill O’Reilly who believe that artists like ICP, with their lyrics describing violence and drug use, are destroying the fragile minds of America’s youth.
It’s safe to say, with100% certainty, that Bill O’Riley has never been to the Gathering of the Juggalos. But photographer Dan Cronin definitely has. For the last two years he has attended The Gathering to meet Juggalos and take portraits of them. He found The Gathering to be a special kind of festival. Rather than attending simply to see a particular band, Dan told me that the biggest draw for many Juggalos is the sense of community and camaraderie they find at the festival. “It’s the one week a year that a lot of these kids really just get to be themselves,” Dan says.
In his portraits, Dan depicts Juggalos of every stripe, likening his approach to that of early 20th century German photographer August Sander who made egalitarian portraits of his countrymen. Bill O’Reilly might see Juggalo culture as a group of misanthropes hell bent on undermining American values, but Dan’s Juggalo portraits reveal a group that embraces those values by creating its own independent and self-sustaining community.
Dan is currently gearing up for a trip to this year’s Gathering to shoot for an upcoming book of his Juggalo Portraits. He spoke with me recently over the phone from Portland about his experiences at Gathering of the Juggalos, misconceptions about Juggalo culture and some of his other projects.
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