Chances are you’ve seen his photographs. If you haven’t, you know the people he’s photographed (a list including – briefly – Buzz Aldrin, Edward Albee, George Takei, Alison Bechdel, and Alan Cumming.) And now he has a new book of photographs showcasing LGBTQ luminaries and ordinaries in the natural habitat of their homes.
Tom Atwood is an award winning photographer best known for his 2005 book Kings in Their Castles, a photo collection of queer men in their homes. The project shined an intimate light on both notable and everyday people, and Atwood leveled the playing by showing subjects in a domestic setting (because no one looks famous while their gardening.) The project was an enormous success and catapulted the self-taught photographer into relative renown, winning Photographer of the Year at the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards in 2009 for his portraiture.
But despite the praise heaped on Atwood for Kings, the project felt incomplete. “I felt like there was a lot more to include,” Atwood said in a phone interview.
For starters, the small town Vermont-native thought the series skewed too heavily towards urban New Yorkers (Atwood grew up on a dirt road in the woods of Vermont). Second, Kings only contained queer men, and with its geographic limitations, a particular kind of queer man. And while these shortcomings didn’t limit the book’s success, much like the LGBTQ movement as a whole, Atwood determined to expand his scope going forward.
HIs forthcoming book, Kings & Queens in Their Castles, remedies these issues. As its name suggests, the book, now available for preorder on Amazon, includes all the letters of the LGBTQ community. The subjects live across the country in red and blue states, in the city and country, and at different levels of socioeconomic status.
“My goal was to show us who we are,” Atwood reflected. Iin order to do that, the project had to include more facets of the LGBTQ community.
With his unique blend of portraiture and architecture, the photographer crisscrossed the country several times by car, seeking out “a variety of geographic locations, socio economic classes, ethnicities, and professions.”
“I looked for interesting people in places you wouldn’t expect.”
What he ended up with is a much more complete picture of gender and sexual minorities in the United States.
But just like the subjects of his first book, in the unassuming context of their homes, dressed as they would be on any given day, Atwood’s different kings and queens show the similarities within a strikingly diverse group of people.