Kings & Queens in Their Castles (published by Damiani, 2017) has been called one of the most ambitious photo series ever conducted of the LGBTQ experience in the USA. Over 15 years, Tom Atwood photographed more than 350 subjects at home nationwide (with over 160 in the book), including nearly 100 celebrities (with about 60 in the book). With individuals from 30 states, Atwood offers a window into the lives and homes of some of America's most intriguing and eccentric personalities.
Among the luminaries depicted are Meredith Baxter, Alan Cumming, Don Lemon, John Waters, George Takei, Alison Bechdel, Barney Frank, Don Bachardy, Billy Porter, Ari Shapiro, Arthur Tress, Michael Urie, Greg Louganis, Charles Busch, Kate Clinton, Dan Savage, Tommy Tune, Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan, Leslie Jordan, Anthony Rapp, John Berendt, Bruce Vilanch, John Corigliano, Anthony Goicolea, Elizabeth Streb, Michael Musto, Carson Kressley, Joel Schumacher, Christian Siriano, John Ashbery, Terrence McNally and Christine Vachon. Modern day tableaux vivants, the images portray whimsical, intimate moments of daily life that shift between the pictorial and the theatrical.
"The access Tom Atwood tirelessly worked to achieve is absolutely astonishing,” says Brian Clamp of ClampArt, adding, “With charm, pizzazz, and sheer determination, Atwood captures the intimate lives of many of the most fascinating and respected members of our LGBTQ community."
Equally fascinating are many of the everyday individuals. Alongside creatives such as artists, fashion designers, writers, actors, directors, music makers and dancers, the series features business men and women, activists and clergy members. It includes those who keep civilization running, such as farmers, beekeepers, doctors, chefs, bartenders and innkeepers. Some miscellaneous athletes, students, professors and socialites. As well as a cartoonist, barista, poet, comedian, navy technician and paleontologist.
Also sublimely depicted are several transgender subjects, including a transgender deputy sheriff and transgender Native American activist, as well as several female impersonators and drag queens. The series also features bohemians, beatniks, mavericks and iconoclasts, many of whom blossomed in the 1960s and 1970s but seem to be slowly disappearing.
“I shoot subjects at home because our natural habitats bring out our true character,” Atwood explains. His approach blends portraiture and architectural photography, to illustrate that subjects and environments are a unified fabric — Congressman Barney Frank surrounded by government documents, actor Anthony Rapp leaning against his award-filled bookcase, and artist Don Bachardy enveloped by colorful paintings. Atwood uses a wide-angle lens and wide depth of field so that neither subject nor home predominates. Resulting in “marvelous photographs that capture our idiosyncrasies and obsessions,” according to playwright, Tony Kushner.
The backdrops are often packed with personal belongings, paraphernalia and detail —director John Waters’ pinup-adorned home office, and actor George Takei’s trinket-filled dining room. And other times portray sweeping exterior views — cityscape balcony vistas of dancer Tommy Tune and CNN anchor Don Lemon, and transgender cop Anthony Barreto-Neto’s long pastoral Vermont driveway. With a flair for design, many of these subjects have crafted playful, often outlandish homes that tell stories about their inhabitants.
“There is a common LGBTQ sensibility that sets us apart that I wanted to recognize and celebrate, says Atwood. “This sensibility shares an outlook with the sensibility of creative and cultural leaders — an awareness of difference, of other, of possibility — an avant-garde mindset.” One fascinating phenomenon the series explores is just how many creative and cultural leaders are LGBTQ. “Alternative sexuality or gender practices and extraordinary talent in arts and culture often seem to be intertwined,” Atwood explains. Many of the book’s subjects are kings or queens of their professions, and many of the interiors are visually rich in the way that medieval decorations were — strong, deep colors, and lavish fabrics.
“Atwood’s photography is a work of immense depth and richness, like a monumental series of biographies,” notes art historian, Andrew Lear of Harvard University. With elements of both formal portraiture and informal snapshots, Atwood’s images attempt to dance the line between beauty and chaos, sometimes simultaneously comforting and unsettling.
Unique in its scope, treatment, and artistic value, Kings & Queens in their Castles should appeal to not only art and photography enthusiasts, architecture and design buffs, and LGBTQ individuals and allies — but to those just wanting to be a fly on the wall in the homes of some of today’s most seminal pop culture icons. Having been called a tour de force of LGBTQ culture, this book features inspiring role models for our youth and offers a refreshing celebration of America’s vibrant LGBTQ community.
Kings & Queens in Their Castles
"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 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
"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
“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
"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
PDF of Book
Note: PDF is heavily compressed so visit the Kings & Queens page to see images with much better quality: