A revealing new photo series captures LGBTQ celebrities in their homes.

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. Meredith Baxter, actor ("Family Ties," "Glee"), thinks over the day ahead in her kitchen in Santa Monica, California.

All photos courtesy of Tom Atwood Photography.

“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.”

2. 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.

3. Billy Porter, actor ("Kinky Boots," "Jesus Christ Superstar"), enjoys a room with a view in New York City.

4. Barney Frank, former U.S. congressman, feels at home behind his desk in Newton, Massachusetts.

5. 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.”

6. Carson Kressley, Bravo and OWN television host, takes in his reflection, surrounded by walls of pink in New York City.

7. Bruce Vilanch, comedy writer and actor, has knocked out his groceries list in West Hollywood, California.

8. Doug Spearman, actor ("Charmed," "Star Trek: Voyager") and Marc Anthony Samuel, actor ("Imperfect Sky," "Parenthood"), relax in Los Angeles.

9. Alison Bechdel (right), cartoonist and author of "Fun Home," and Holly Taylor, compost maven, take in the greenery in Jericho, Vermont.

10. Alan Cumming, actor ("Hamlet," "Cabaret"), stands in front of his personal library in New York City.

11. 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.

12. Lydia Brown, Georgetown University student and disability activist, surrounded by words of inspiration in Washington, D.C.

13. Patrick Standley and Matt Russell, farmers in Lacona, Iowa, look for a critter in the tall grass.

14. 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.”

15. Anthony Bareto-Neto, former deputy sheriff in Barton, Vermont, stands in a world of green.

16. Jeff Mallory, nonprofit trustee, and Kevin Smith, writer, sit cross-legged by their pool with the Big Sur, California, sun shining down on them.

17. 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."

18. David Meacham, drag queen, applies his makeup in Van Nuys, California.

19. Mary Celley and Sue Williams, beekeepers in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, work under a bright blue sky.

20. Ted Haykal, an artist in Peaks Island, Maine, gets cozy in his backyard fort.

All photos courtesy of Tom Atwood Photography. Learn more about "Kings & Queens in Their Castles," or check out Atwood's Facebook and Twitter pages.

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."