“Refreshing clarity and modesty.”
– The New Yorker
"The access Tom Atwood tirelessly worked to achieve is absolutely astonishing. With charm, pizzazz, and sheer determination, Atwood captures the intimate lives of many of the most fascinating and respected members of our LGBTQ community. Bravo!"
– Brian Clamp, ClampArt
"Complex... sincere... enchanting... frequently wonderful."
– The Art Newspaper
"Atwood's work is at once evocative of both early European master paintings and old Hollywood cinematography. Atwood meticulously composes each image to convey that we and our homes are a unified fabric."
– Yossi Milo, Yossi Milo Gallery
"Atwood presents a unique and refreshing spin on environmental portraiture – pictures alive with imagination, detail and beauty. He turns his gaze to some of the most imaginative, creative and influential cultural leaders of our time... Atwood’s camera – and his eye – makes the medium seem fresh, alive and attention-grabbing."
– Annie Philbin, Director of Hammer Museum
“Marvelous photographs that capture our idiosyncrasies and obsessions.”
– Tony Kushner, Playwright
"A work of immense depth and richness, like a monumental series of biographies.”
– Andrew Lear, Harvard University
“Vivid portraits... flying in the face of stereotypes.”
– San Francisco Chronicle
"With acute sensitivity and striking visual flair, Atwood penetrates secret lairs... resulting in brilliantly-constructed stages displaying uninhibited flights of imaginative fantasy."
– Arthur Tress, Photographer
"An outstanding achievement in environmental portraiture. Atwood portrays his subjects with passion and grace, giving royal treatment to both the glamorous and the chaotic."
– Moisés Kaufman, Playwright
“Rare, capricious moments that shimmer with emotion and intimacy.”
– Publishers Weekly
"The most rounded photographic record we have ever had of the gay urban experience. This book should find a special place on the list of all the inventions that have long drawn gay men from the heartland into New York – everything from the rhythms of West Side Story to the short stories of the New Yorker, the epiphanies of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the plots of Edmund White."
– Charles Kaiser
“Lush, lively evocations of creative living at its most humorous and engaged... This book is guaranteed to open your eyes and at the very least, it will inspire you to hire an interior decorator.”
– Amy Sohn, New York Magazine
“A modern day Gainsborough.”
– Genre Magazine
San Francisco Chronicle
Flying in the face of stereotypes about gay men fussing over their homes, photographer Tom Atwood provides 71 photo essays on gay men in their New York abodes. These vivid portraits accent character over design and include notables such as Edmund White, John Waters, Edward Albee and Todd Oldham and many poets, artists, directors and musicians. Their living spaces are creative -- two artists are depicted in a huge, nearly bare studio room -- and evocative of the tight, worn, cramped quarters in the Big Apple. In each photo, Atwood has his subject inhabiting the room, either musing, laughing, talking to a friend or a pet or playing with children. His sharp photos fulfill his intention -- to downplay flesh and document complex personalities, and, in particular, the fading of a breed of maverick and iconoclast personalities that shaped the gay urban scene. - Laura Thomas
This collective portrait of gay urban artists, writers, musicians and designers suggests "gay men are actually more interesting with their clothes on"-an invigorating perspective, especially considering that bookstore shelves are practically buckling under the weight of gay-themed photo collections that focus on the sculpted, semi-nude male form. Atwood's photographs are portals into the everyday existence of gay men within "their own carefully constructed spaces" (read: their homes); whether it's writer Michael Cunningham biting his nail, deep in conversational thought, artist Ross Bleckner yawning in his studio or DJ Junior Vasquez contemplating garbage on his rooftop, Atwood documents the rare, capricious moments that transform his famous subjects into the familiar and the accessible.
In the foreword, author Charles Keiser (Gay Metropolis) acknowledges that Atwood, at times, "arranges" his subjects, as with the photo of filmmaker John Waters packing fake food in a suitcase, but the point of his work is not to "imitate life, but to clarify it, by making it more vivid."
Shot primarily on 35 mm with minimal cropping, the 71 portraits included here often include both floor and ceiling to give the viewer as much of the subject's environment as possible. The technique challenges the eye without sacrificing balance, particularly in the shot of drag queen Hedda Lettuce-backed by her wall of wigs- fending off her dog as she is about to leave for a performance. Atwood's subjects rarely look at the camera, and yet even the portraits of lesser known performers and artists shimmer with emotion and intimacy.
In his remarkable new book, Tom Atwood focuses on the one destination that every trip has in common: home. His Kings in Their Castles (Terrace Books, www.TomAtwood.com) takes us on a series of brief visits to places we would never have access to on our own, while providing a rich reminder that our everyday locales can be as exotic, as quaint, as escapist, or as soul stirring as the places we dream of going to on vacation.
Shot largely in New York (a subsequent photo series will dwell on the West Coast) Atwood's images are neither classic portraiture nor fashion-conscious decor photography, but concise visual narratives about the relationships between men and their homes: we see Andrew Solomon (the pharmaceutical heir and author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression) in bed, dwarfed by a dreamlike cubist construction that threatens to overwhelm even as it shelters. Poet Richard Howard seems the master of his own memories, standing tall in a small room aswarm with hundreds of black and white photographs. Editor Joe Holtzman has decorated almost every available surface of his tiny galley kitchen, as if defying prosaicness.
"Most of the time," Atwood said in a recent conversation with Passport, "I would arrive at my subjects' doors having never met them or seen their homes. With some of the public figures in the book, their homes accurately fit their public image. John Waters is a case in point. he had an art installation depicting a table where a terrorist was manufacturing anthrax in little plastic bags, an execution chair, and all sorts of other arcane things that seemed like they could have been props in his films. But sometimes I found the opposite. John Bartlett is a good example of this. His fashions are edgy (with references to S&M) yet his apartment is rather traditional in terms of style; I encountered a lot of subjects who seem to use their personal space as a way to create a sort of sanctuary that can soothe them."
Zink Magazine (Canada)
Read it while lounging around your newly decorated apartment - naked. Tom Atwood's first book, Kings in Their Castles (Terrace Books), takes you on an intriguing journey through the homes of gay artists, activists, directors, personal trainers and drag queens. Full of intimate moments, playful poses and domestic theatricality, the collection showcases more than a few gay cultural icons, including filmmaker John Waters (packing fake food into a suitcase) Edward Albee (musing at his piano), Barneys creative director Simon Doonan (working quietly in his home office) and Todd Oldham (climbing the ladder to his tree house). In each of Atwood's meticulous shots, the man and his home are presented as two equally animate characters existing in perfect symbiosis. Even Mother Flawless Sabina, a female impersonator photographed giving himself a facelift with duct tape, blends in gorgeously with his surroundings. - Nikia Dawkins
New York Blade
In case you’ve ever wondered what John Waters keeps on his bulletin board, how Hedda Lettuce stores her massive wig collection or what Junior Vasquez wears when he cleans, Tom Atwood has your answers. The West Hollywood photographer’s new book, Kings in Their Castles, provides 71 portraits of gay men in their most intimate setting: at home. After working on the project for four years, Atwood captures Edward Albee at his piano, author Michael Cunningham deep in thought with partner Ken Corbett, Tommy Tune chilling and fashion designer John Bartlett doing some spooky Tarot stuff. A voyeur’s delight, Kings in Their Castles gives apartment envy the royal treatment.
"Nothing provides insight into an individual‚s personality as clearly as their home and how they live in it. In many ways, your home is a metaphysical extension of yourself," explains award-winning photographer Tom Atwood. This belief lays the foundation for Atwood's first book, Kings in Their Castles. With 71 portraits of artists and activists, poets and personal trainers, directors and drag queens, Atwood's work gets to the heart of the imagination, energy and eccentricity that characterizes the contributions of gay men to the world's greatest cities.
The project has been a four-year labor of love for Atwood. "The photographs represent thoughts I've wanted to write, images I've wanted to paint, and individuals I'm delighted to count as part of my life," he explains. Charles Kaiser, celebrated journalist and author of The Gay Metropolis, provides the book's foreword. Kaiser heralds the book as a new touchstone of gay culture, joining the ranks of "everything from the rhythms of West Side Story to the short stories of The New Yorker, the epiphanies of Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the plots of Edmund White."
GCN Magazine (Ireland)
The gays are so stylish, aren't they? You walk into their houses and you go green with envy, 'cause everything is so perfect and so gorgeous... If ever there was a ridiculous queer stereotype, it's the interior design one. If you're not a homosexual with a perfect home, it seems you're not homosexual after all. On the surface, Kings in Their Castles would seem to set out to prove this maxim, but one glimpse at the cover - film director John Waters surrounded by a mess of junk food on the floor of his living room - and you know this is about challenging stereotypes rather than backing them up. Sure, Broadway composer Tommy Tune lives in super-designer luxury, and architect Alan Tanksley's shower room, with its skyscraper views is to die for, but Junior Vasquez's roof garden is a rubbish-filled pit, and frankly I'd be afraid to go into department store display producer mark Vitulano's kitchen. The focus here is on how these men use their environments on an everyday level, and the resulting mess-strewn photographs are as fascinating as the glimpses you get into peoples' lives when you pass un-curtained windows at night.
Paper City Magazine
By now we've established that we love poking our noses into houses of style. So when photographer Tom Atwood's new book Kings in Their Castles (Terrace Books) landed at the front desk, we cancelled the 3 pm latte run and stayed in instead. Here's your inner voyeur's chance to go home with designer Todd Oldham, artist Ross Bleckner, dancer Tommy Tune, mega-DJ Junior Vasquez, director John Waters - packing a suitcase with plastic food, no less - and dozens more dandy men. But don't think of these as perfectly-lit stage sets: Atwood's twisted perspectives and moody lighting add layers to the already telling images of some very colorful characters inside their gritty, glamorous, messy neat environs.
When an artist aspires to deliver something more than the requisite nudie-erotica book, my eyes perk up. Photographer Tom Atwood’s Kings in Their Castles catches some of the worlds best known and most successful gay men in their personal space. And while many of the photos have obviously been staged and/or dreamed up prior to the shoot (see cult classic director John Waters packing a suitcase with prop food on what is presumably his living room floor on the book’s cover), Atwood’s artistic direction is a welcome fit. I mean, is it really so incomprehensible that Waters (the man who brought us Pink Flamingos and Serial Mom and made a quasi star out of SLA brainwashee Patty Hearst) might kill time playing with plastic food?
Some of the photos are fun simply in their sense of irony. Investment bankers, marketing execs and personal trainers are shown in minimalist surroundings setting a bare table for supper or drowning out the day with cigarettes while artists, playwrights and creative types are surrounded by a hodgepodge of collectables, knickknacks and art installations. But in digging deeper, Atwood has managed to tell a story with each of these photos.
You’ll find yourself lost in a sea of curiosity and wonderment looking at the space poet Richard Howard, drag queen Hedda Lettuce and professor Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt among others, have surrounded themselves in. This is truly a coffee table book worthy of its title. It’s clear Atwood is passionate about his subjects, and he showcases each of them with the greatest of care and the highest regard.
What do Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, and John Waters, director of Hairspray, have in common? Besides being gay New Yorkers, both these men posed for Tom Atwood's enchanting art photography book, Kings in Their Castles. This collection of images highlights more than 50 gay men with "complicated, multi-dimensional personalities" in their natural habitats: their homes. "Finding and photographing individuals for the book became a psychological addiction of mine for four years" says Atwood, who queried everyone he knew and some people he didn't, including an elderly stranger on a plane and a don from Cambridge University, in his search for subjects.
The resulting photographs, rarely cropped and shot on 35mm film, strike a gentle balance between the men and their surroundings, which are visible extensions of their personalities and signifiers of the differences and eccentricities integral to gay life. While Atwood's reviewers repeatedly note the public figures portrayed, the most striking images in Atwood's book are the most private ones: publishing executive Jonathan Burnham cleaning, and massage therapist Hush McDowell talking to his dog. Among Atwood's own favorites are some that unfortunately weren't included in the final version of the book, such as Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy sitting on his toilet, or PR consultant Alan Rohwer surrounded by the world's largest collection of Madonna magazine covers.
What do gay men do best? So many things - but since this is our design issue, we'll stick to the subject at hand. As Jonathan Adler says in our interview with him, "I believe that gays are put on the earth to make things prettier." We agree; that's why Kings in Their Castles, a collective portrait of the gay urban community in America, wonderfully photographed by Tom Atwood, is so compelling. Some of the celebrities behind Atwood's lens are Junior Vasquez, Ned Rorem, Edward Albee and Todd Oldham. Combining elements of reality and fantasy, Atwood "bears witness to splendor" wherever he can.
Considering that most photography books featuring gay men today showcase semi-nude sculpted bodies, it is quite refreshing to catch a glimpse of gay men in their most comfortable settings: their homes. Tom Atwood's Kings in Their Castles opens a portal into the lives of various men and allows us to view them and their intimate spaces as they think, work, and, most importantly, live. The men in each portrait come from a variety of professions and include writers, directors, producers, decorators, investors and entertainers. Each man combined with his natural setting brings forth a though-provoking portrait. Shots of John Waters as he packs his suitcase with unordinary items reveal his misrepresented reality. Interior decorator Austin Chinn's photograph captures him as he sits at a table lost in thought, but it's his decorated surroundings that truly catch one's eye. It's an invitation that captures these personalities in an intimate setting that speaks more about who they may be than who the media says they are. Comprised of 71 portraits, the men in each photograph are caught mid-action and rarely do they acknowledge the camera. Each photo reveals the emotion and ambience these men have created not only in their lives but also their cribs. This is a great book that will create quite the stir of conversation at any coffee table.
Kings in Their Castles (Terrace Books, hard cover) contains color photographs of some 50 gay New Yorkers, taken in their homes. Some of the men (Edward Albee, John Waters) are more famous than others, whose renown might be circumscribed to New York. What's interesting about the photographs is the sense they give that you are catching a private, candid moment in that person's life, while he is enclosed in a world of his own making: a kitchen, a bedroom, a studio. Award-winning author Charles Kaiser contributed the foreword. Samples from the book can be viewed online at the author's website, www.TomAtwood.com.
Book Marks Magazine (Canada)
Novelist Edmund White is munching an apple. Composer Ned Rorem is sitting at a piano. Painter Ross Bleckner is yawning in his studio. They're among the gay celebs whose at-home poses grace this lush depiction of the private worlds of several public people. But not all of the 71 gracefully unstuffy fine art photos are of big queer names: former White House staffer Sean Maloney and partner Randy Florke, who restores homes, are playing with their two children; massage therapist Hush McDowell is "explaining action figures to his dog"; teachers Tom Valette and Darrell Wilson are conversing in sign language. By choosing to photograph only New Yorkers, Atwood has crafted a book that goes beyond mere portraiture. Glimpses of the likes of Edward Albee and Tommy Tune at home are interesting enough, but Kings in Their Castles has a grander purpose - to show how creative queers, choosing to live in a cramped urban environment, are able to craft homes (even sculptor Tobi Wong's 8-by-9-foot apartment) that are whimsical, tasteful, and eclectically distinctive. - Richard Labonte
Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review
This collective portrait of gay urban artists, writers, musicians, and designers suggests that gay men are actually more interesting with their clothes on-an invigorating perspective, especially considering that bookstore shelves are practically buckling under the weight of gay-themed photo collections whose focus is the sculpted, semi-nude male form. Atwood's photographs are portals into the everyday existence of gay men within their own carefully constructed spaces: their homes.
Whether it's writer Michael Cunningham, biting his nails, deep in conversational thought, artist Ross Bleckner yawning in his studio, or DJ Junior Vasquez contemplating garbage on his rooftop, Atwood documents the rare, capricious moments that can make his famous subjects seem familiar and accessible. In the collection's Foreword, author Charles Kaiser (Gay Metropolis) acknowledges that Atwood, at times, "arranges" his subjects as with the photo of filmmaker John Waters packing fake food in a suitcase, but that the point of his work is not to "imitate life, but to clarify it, by making it more vivid."
Shot primarily on 35 mm film with minimal cropping the 71 portraits included here often show both floor and ceiling to give the viewer an overview of the environment. The technique challenges the eye without sacrificing balance, particularly in the shot of drag queen Hedda Lettuce - backed by her wall of wigs - fending off her dog as she's about to leave for a performance. Atwood's subjects rarely look at the camera, and yet even the portraits of lesser-known performers and artists shimmer with emotion and a kind of intimacy that is at once familiar and new. - Tony Peregrin
Brown Alumni Magazine
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy made an industry out of shaping up style-challenged straight men. Now photographer Tom Atwood shows how the other 11 percent live. His Kings in Their Castles was published this fall by Terrace Books. Painter Ross Bleckner is one of the artists, writers, and other glitterati who opened their homes to Atwood; others include Tommy Tune, John Waters, and Edmund White. But the book is more than a coffee table Lifestyles of the Rich and Gay. Atwood also portrays less-known but colorful New Yorkers - drag queens and drama queens alike. His portraits feel candid and intimate, adding up to a collective portrait of gay urban men.
Photographer Tom Atwood manages to gracefully combine grandeur and claustrophobia. His long-gestating project that documents gay men of all stripes in their homes is arresting and fascinating. Who doesn't want a glimpse inside Todd Oldham's and Edward Albee's apartments, after all? But this is hardly In Style. Atwood's exploration of how gay men live, decorate, and exist within their own microcosms is never what the viewer expects. And although the artist does admit to setting up some of the shots, you quickly forget this detail when you see an image of artist Chuck Hettinger in his bathroom grooming a live poodle as a row of ceramic poodle figurines loom overhead; it's believably candid. - Mikel Wadewitz