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

by Tyler Trykowski
21 March 2017, 9:28am

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

What unites the LGBTQ community? Apparently, not much these days.

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 or 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 in broad daylight.

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

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

Doug Spearman and Marc Anthony Samuel, actors, Los Angeles, CA

David Lerner, dance essayist, New York, NY

Lydia Brown, Georgetown student and disability activist, Washington, D.C.

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

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

Ted Haykal, artist, Pikes Island, ME

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

Tish Touchette, retiree, New York, NY

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

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

Don Lemon, CNN anchor, New York, NY

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

Laura Olsen and Mari Omland, farmers, Northfield, VT

Drew Hunter, amusement park designer, Jacksonville, FL