Over the past 15 years, photographer Tom Atwood traveled across the country to shoot portraits of 350 LGBTQ Americans in their homes. He captured public figures like Alan Cumming, Alison Bechdel, and John Waters as well as farmers, beekeepers, activists, and politicians. His intimate photographs from over a decade of shooting are showcased in the new book Kings and Queens in Their Castles, published by Damiani.
Atwood traveled to 30 states and spent thousands of hours researching and finding subjects of all ages, professions, and gender and sexual identities. His photographs include portraits of a young disability activist in her dorm room, CNN anchor Don Lemon lounging on his balcony, and a North Carolina barista in her kitchen. “I wanted to portray less traditional concepts of diversity in terms of age, profession, and geography,” Atwood told the Cut. “A lot of gay photography historically seemed to skew younger and urban, with people of stereotypically gay professions. I wanted to offer a different perspective.”
He decided to photograph people in their homes to create a narrative for the series and showcase the power of self-expression, feeling their tastes in interior design provided insight into their private lives and personalities. “Our homes seem to represent fantasy worlds that allow us to blossom — to be who we are regardless of societal pressure,” he said. “I think some LGBTQ people go to great lengths to draw distinction between the mainstream and ourselves, a difference that is often represented visually through our living spaces.”
Atwood said he hopes the images not only depict LGBTQ people as leaders in their professions (hence the book’s title Kings and Queens), but also redefine his viewers’ understanding of diversity. “I’m hoping this book becomes a symbol or source of pride for the LGBTQ community — that it might help shape and become part of our identity.”
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