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(all photographs © Daniel Cronin)

Scorn for redneck culture — often dressed up as ironic appreciation — has long been a standby of American humor, a mechanism by which socioeconomic tension is reduced to a soothing cascade of condescension. It’s a classic indulgence of middle class banality, kind of like a mall fountain, but more cruel. That this is a sublimation of political antagonism should be obvious to anyone following American elections, where alternating middle class factions pair off with alternating elite factions with the more or less generalized effect of soaking the poor.

At the Gathering of the Juggalos, however, an annual bacchanal that has in recent years attracted significant media attention, from the New York Times to Wired, the subculture cultivated by Detroit rappers Insane Clown Posse (ICP) indulges in a rural and ritualistic annihilation of mainstream decorum. At the Gathering, the only soaking is done universally, aggressively, with Faygo, a soft drink that functions as the unofficial beverage of ICP. Predictably, the Juggalos have been a regular target for a certain brand of sneering sociology, a sentiment noxiously pervasive in much of the journalistic writing on the topic and one rightly condemned by Matthew Newton in a 2011 Forbes article.

A refusal to muck up the Juggalo experience — either by sarcasm or sociology — is the ultimate triumph of photographer Daniel Cronin’s The Gathering of the Juggalos (Prestel, 2013). Cronin’s project intimately captures a much-maligned group without being scopophilic, conveying a perspective that is sincere without being saccharine. Rather than tacking too far in either direction — risking neither callous irony nor National Geographic condescension —  the photo book is a subtle study of the characters who make up the Gathering of the Juggalos, people whose marginal status in society is momentarily redeemed in a rural universe of their own creation.

The book is prefaced by an excellent introductory essay by Camille Dodero, whose thorough yet unpatronizing coverage of 2010’s Gathering (including the notable Tila Tequila debacle) cemented her status as America’s foremost Juggalo correspondent. Her essay grounds Cronin’s efforts by orienting the subculture within the fractured landscape of American sociopolitics, writing that “Juggalos tend to be dropouts, orphans, survivors — the lowest members of America’s silent caste system.”

The anarchic Gatherings may draw comparisons to Burning Man and recall Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zone, but such egg-headed allusions miss the point entirely, and Dodero’s essay is blissfully devoid of such references. Beyond familiarizing the reader to the basic tenets of the Juggalo ethic, her essay is further held together by an intriguing personal narrative, the story of one Juggalo, Knox, who traveled 2000 miles on foot from Oregon to the Gathering in Hardin County, Illinois.

In humanizing what Dodero refers to as “a publicly detested demographic,” Daniel Cronin’s images weave a variegated story of outsider camaraderie and human mirth, a depiction of marginal America belonging to a grand documentary tradition.

The Gathering of the Juggalos is available from Prestel.

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6 replies on “In Faygo Veritas: Shooting the Juggalos”

    1. A) The wikipedia article you cite relates that this rapper co-created horrorcore with ICP among others. B) Of what relevance is this comment beyond demonstrating your erudition? This is an article about photography of the Juggalos, the oft-detested community that has sprung up around ICP, as well as that community itself – not about the artistic merits of the music, or its originality.

      1. No one with the most crucial piece of a puzzle has to keep it hidden behind your ear.

        Esham was the first to paint his face like a clown plus it is believed that he coined the term “juggalo.”

        ICP exists because of Esham–same as Kid Rock, Eminem, and Detroit rap in general.

        If you are studying juggalos then you are privy to Esham in mainstream culture today.

        1. No, that didn’t clarify anything. You said all this before. Perhaps you’d be interested in providing some evidence beyond a directly contradictory wikipedia article? And maybe a reason why this is relavent?

          1. The music of Esham and his band NATAS is definitely worth listening to. My favorite albums of his are “KKKill the Fetus” and “Tongues.”

            Esham calls his music “acid rap” of which came “horrorcore” and other rap music genres but they all find their seed in Esham though Brotha Lynch Hung is also widely credited as being seminal to horrorcore and with this I concur.

            Why would you not want to contextualize the juggalos if you wanted to view photographs of them and at the same time be recommended groundbreaking rap music?

            I am not trying to sound smart although I can understand how my comments may have come off as aloof.

  1. Sad that an academic point of order that nobody cares about ends up being the focus of early discussion here when the photos themselves are amazing and worthy of deeper consideration. Comments like the previous ones about origins etc… are just a veiled way to steal the spotlight and to shift the focus of the group to the brilliance of the commenter rather than the significance of the content of the article.

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