5 Questions: Tom Atwood

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5 Questions is a series by Steve Duffy –

Kings & Queens in Their Castles has been called the most ambitious photo series ever conducted of the LGBTQ experience in the USA. Over 15 years, Tom Atwood photographed more than 350 subjects at home nationwide (with over 160 in the book), including nearly 100 celebrities (with about 60 in the book). With individuals from 30 states, Atwood offers a window into the lives and homes of some of America’s most intriguing and eccentric personalities.

To see some of Atwood’s work, please visit tomatwood.com

SD: Photos tell a story, what story are you trying to tell through Kings & Queens?

TD: 20 years ago, I was sitting in a bookstore looking at gay photography books and they were all full of young gay men romping around naked. To me, this was not a true representation of who we are as a community. When I started this book, I really wanted to highlight the older generation that have lived through the AIDs epidemic and gay rights. I wanted to celebrate the gay sensibility. What I love about these photos is that you can really tell a lot about the subjects by how they live. It adds a biographical layer to them.

SD: How did you choose your subjects for this book?

TA: I traveled through 30 different states to find these subjects. Most were referrals from friends. I spent hours of phone calls, writing, and posting to Facebook. As I traveled with my dad cross country, I did a lot of googling for gay and lesbian groups and networks for referrals. 

 SD: How do you go about connecting with your portrait subjects?

TA: I always see my photography process as a social one. When I am shooting someone there is a lot going through my mind, especially from a technical standpoint, but through constant dialogue I am able to help my subject let their guard down and get comfortable in front of the camera. 

SD: Who was the most interesting person to shoot?

TA: There were so many! Meredith Baxter from “Family Ties” comes to mind. She lives in Santa Monica and I was surprised by her kitchen. It was nothing fancy, just a normal kitchen, and I could tell she felt really comfortable in it. What was surprising was how she really let her guard down and poured her soul out. The photo really catches her in a beautiful moment. 

SD: Why was it important to you to share their story?

TA: I feel like a lot of the gay series that I saw in the past were too sexual. I wanted to show there are lots of different gays that are living everywhere in the world. I wanted to create a body of work that was a touch tone of the gay community.


Tom Atwood

For more information about Tom and his new book Kings & Queens in Their Castles visit www.tomatwood.com

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