Great environmental portraits blend nuance and details, and, at their best, help tell a subject’s story. The real standouts of this genre do more than that; they celebrate those people in the viewfinder with evocative visual clues, both empirical and symbolic. New York photographer Tom Atwood is something of a master at this, and you can see his process on display in his newly released Kings & Queens In Their Castles.
The book is a collection of 134 lively, imaginative environmental portraits—Atwood’s selects from a project that took him 15 years to complete. He photographed 350 members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community in their homes around the country for what his publisher praises as “the most ambitious photo series ever conducted of the LGBTQ experience in the USA.”
LGBTQ advocacy is an important motif here. So is Tom Atwood’s acute instinct for conveying the resonance between portrait subjects and the objects and places that help communicate the texture of their lives. The pictures are brilliant and celebrity portraits abound (actors Meredith Baxter, George Takei, Tommy Tune, Alan Cumming, Olympic diver Greg Louganis, Congressman Barney Frank, filmmaker John Waters, news anchor Don Lemon and more), along with “real people,” eccentrics included (female impersonator Mother Flawless Sabrina, transgender deputy sheriff Anthony Barreto-Neto, chef/drag performer Arnold Myint), all merging with the surroundings that help define their personas.
Kings & Queens In Their Castles is inspirational and essential for the library of every serious portrait shooter.
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