Portraits of the Many, Many Ways to Be Queer


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Portraits of the Many, Many Ways to Be Queer

In 'Kings & Queens in Their Castles,' Tom Atwood reveals just how subtle the queer sensibility has become

What unites the LGBTQ community? These days, not much.

Old-line gay and lesbian cultures are waning. Our pride parades are, for the most part, politically dilute. While some corners of the LGBTQ community enjoy unprecedented visibility, acceptance, and political recognition, others face unprecedented bigotry. That manifests in an "LGBTQ community" that includes both gay bigots and those who use activism to fight against oppression. All are "queer," but that term, more than ever, seems impossibly diffuse.


When you take in the sum of photographer Tom Atwood's magnum opus, Kings & Queens in Their Castles—a 15-year-long project in which he sought to capture LGBTQ subjects in their rooms and homes—that diffusion is rendered in stark relief. "When I was younger, I would sit down in bookstores and look at photography books, and I noted that gay photography, for better or worse, was really focused on sexuality. The subjects were mostly young and trendy and urban with their shirts off," he said. His project is meant as a correction to that stereotype, focusing on subjects both young and old, well-known (Alison Bechdel and Alan Cumming, for example) and not.

Atwood trains his lens on as many retired lesbians and rural gay laborers as he does investment bankers and creative professionals. The most surprising thing about the collection is the sheer ordinariness of his subjects' lives. These are your grandmothers, aunts, and neighbors. Some are famous and wealthy; others are poor and downtrodden. Regardless, they all make up the LGBTQ community and are presented here.

Tom Atwood's Kings & Queens in Their Castles comes out April 25.

Neil Giuliano, former Tempe mayor and president of GLAAD, Phoenix

Doug Spearman and Marc Anthony Samuel, actors, Los Angeles

David Lerner, dance essayist, New York

Lydia Brown, Georgetown student and disability activist, Washington, DC

Oscar Reynaga, Latin American studies professor, and Bryon Owen, elementary school teacher, Ottumwa, Iowa

Tim Coulter, homeless activist, in his Scooby Doo–themed van, Los Angeles

Ted Haykal, artist, Peaks Island, Maine

Maggie Zall, activist and sex worker, and Nicole Stroumbos (friend), dancer, Portland, Maine

Tish Touchette, retiree, New York

Frank Marino, longest-running headliner on the Strip, dubbed "Ms. Las Vegas," Las Vegas

Anthony Barreto-Neto, transgender deputy sheriff, Barton, Vermont

Don Lemon, CNN anchor, New York

Neda Ulaby, NPR arts correspondent, in her yard on the morning of her wedding, Hubbardton, Vermont

Laura Olsen and Mari Omland, farmers, Northfield, Vermont

Drew Hunter, amusement park designer, Jacksonville, Florida