What in the hell is santacon?

As a good friend of mine put it (while photographing the event completely sober) “I felt like a small boat of sobriety floating in a sea of drunkenness.”

SantaCon in Seattle, is not really a convention – not even a little bit. It’s a bit of a festive bar crawl where people dress up in various Christmas attire. The two night event takes place in mid December on Saturday and then the next Saturday one week later. To be very specific, it officially starts around 2pm, but it really starts at like 6pm and people get more and more fucked up drunk as the night goes on.

Around 3pm there is a large gathering at the entrance to Pike Market. There is a large group photo before people eventually disperse to the various bars in downtown Seattle and in Pioneer Square.

This is the third year I’ve photographed this thing and the first year that I was working directly with the event organizer as one of the event photographers. The first year I photographed it, I had no access to any of the participating bars and I could tell this was where the action was. It was a rainy night and my friend and I just walked up and down first Ave with flash and camera in hand looking for drunk santas walking up and down the street.

The only photo I came up with that I was happy with was when I was waiting in the line for the bathroom at a small and very quiet bar in Pioneer Square (above). I had no time to react, it was my turn to use the bathroom and there was a line of people behind me. I guessed the exposure (my camera had no light meter) and held it really steady. I remember thinking to myself “I hope that photo came out okay.” Photography reminds me that it’s typically the unexpected moments that have the greatest impact and I may have a chance at capturing it if I keep an open handed and open eyed approach to life.

Third year in and it was back to the drunken ocean. There is something so peculiar as to be surrounded by drunk people while you are totally sober. It’s a stimulating experience and a very lonely one. To be honest, the practice of photography for me as a whole is both stimulating and profoundly lonely.

I thought that after a few years I’d have enough pictures to put together a zine but that just isn’t the case. I’m okay with that. I’m learning to embrace the slow game of it all.
At any rate, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy these images.


  • Ryder Collins

    I am a photographer living in Seattle Washington that is in love with photographing those fleeting surprise moments. I have always been a people watcher, and when I picked up a camera for the first time my natural inclination was to go out on the street and photograph people. I've always been attracted to photographing the emotions of people and the oftentimes absurd nature of the human experience. At this point I am becoming most interested in visual storytelling through documentary style photography. My current work involves documenting the people of Seattle - how they live, find excitement and resiliency in this city that feels equal parts anxiety and hope.

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