The photo book “Kings & Queens in Their Castles” captures the mundane and the extraordinary within queer life.
15 years ago, Tom Atwood noticed something flipping through photography books capturing gay life: Everything looked the same.
The subjects were young. The aesthetics were trendy. They only featured people and stories in big cities.
Atwood, a gay photographer himself, had an idea: Why not capture LGBTQ people — ordinary folks and celebrities alike — living in the everyday?
In “Kings & Queens in Their Castles,” a photo book documenting members of the LGBTQ community in their homes — including about 60 queer celebrities and influencers — Atwood finally brought his idea to life.
1. George Takei, actor (“Star Trek,” “Heroes”), surrounded by gift wrap and bows in his Los Angeles home.
2. Meredith Baxter, actor (“Family Ties,” “Glee”), thinks over the day ahead in her kitchen in Santa Monica, California.
“I think someone’s home tells you a lot about them,” Atwood explains.
“When I began, I was shooting mostly subjects in New York, with their often dark, cramped spaces,” Atwood told Feature Shoot. “I lived in L.A. for several years, and during that time, I noticed there was much more space and light in my photos. And I started including subjects in their yards. As I started shooting subjects across the country, including rural subjects, more land and sky appeared.”
3. Don Lemon, CNN host, takes a phone call on his New York City balcony wearing an outfit most will never see him in: a T-shirt, sneakers, and jeans.
4. Billy Porter, actor (“Kinky Boots,” “Jesus Christ Superstar”), enjoys a room with a view in New York City.
5. Barney Frank, former U.S. congressman, feels at home behind his desk in Newton, Massachusetts.
6. Elizabeth Streb, acclaimed choreographer, and Laura Flanders, Air America radio host, surrounded by books and creative works in New York City.
Atwood’s photos are a balance between reflecting the ordinary and the uniqueness of LGBTQ life.
“When I started, I really wanted to show that LGBTQ people are just like everybody else,” he says. “Then I started to realize that for some people, there actually is a gay sensibility, and I wanted to celebrate that and feature it.”
7. Carson Kressley, Bravo and OWN television host, takes in his reflection, surrounded by walls of pink in New York City.
8. Bruce Vilanch, comedy writer and actor, has knocked out his groceries list in West Hollywood, California.
9. Doug Spearman, actor (“Charmed,” “Star Trek: Voyager”) and Marc Anthony Samuel, actor (“Imperfect Sky,” “Parenthood”), relax in Los Angeles.
10. Alison Bechdel (right), cartoonist and author of “Fun Home,” and Holly Taylor, compost maven, take in the greenery in Jericho, Vermont.
11. Alan Cumming, actor (“Hamlet,” “Cabaret”), stands in front of his personal library in New York City.
12. Randal Kleiser, film director (“Grease,” “The Blue Lagoon”), passes the time with his four-legged friends in Los Angeles.
True to the book’s initial concept, however, most of the subjects featured in Atwood’s book aren’t celebrities.
Atwood traveled to 30 states through the years, documenting a diverse array of subjects coast to coast, from farmers and students to lawyers and beekeepers.
13. Lydia Brown, Georgetown University student and disability activist, surrounded by words of inspiration in Washington, D.C.
14. Patrick Standley and Matt Russell, farmers in Lacona, Iowa, look for a critter in the tall grass.
15. Rhea Reeves, a barista, pops open a drink in her cozy Raleigh, North Carolina, kitchen.
“The current political climate makes the book, which portrays LGBTQ folks from all walks of life, all the more necessary, in my opinion,” Atwood told Feature Shoot. “It makes me extra eager to share it more broadly.”
“I hope, in particular, that those in this country who emphasize differences among us might be able to relate to the subjects in the book — especially the dozens of rural and blue-collar subjects,” said Atwood, who’s originally from rural Vermont. “And that the book reminds them that there are LGBTQ folks living in their communities who are just like them in many ways.”
16. Anthony Bareto-Neto, former deputy sheriff in Barton, Vermont, stands in a world of green.
17. Jeff Mallory, nonprofit trustee, and Kevin Smith, writer, sit cross-legged by their pool with the Big Sur, California, sun shining down on them.
18. Gary Tisdale-Woods, community volunteer, stands in style in his Greensboro, Georgia, home.
“I also love the idea of having role models for kids,” Atwood says, noting young LGBTQ people may see themselves in these photos and realize there are people like them everywhere — not just in cities far away.
“It’s been touching — younger people have reached out after seeing the project and told me it’s inspired them to either come out or go into photography,” he explains. “I think that’s nice to know that younger people can see these pictures and maybe discover someone they relate to in them.”
19. David Meacham, drag queen, applies his makeup in Van Nuys, California.
20. Mary Celley and Sue Williams, beekeepers in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, work under a bright blue sky.
21. Ted Haykal, an artist in Peaks Island, Maine, gets cozy in his backyard fort.