Rick Castro has lived and worked in Los Angeles his entire life. He is the co-director and writer of Hustler White with Bruce Labruce, (1996). He has also directed the documentary Plushies & Furries for MTV, (2001) and the legendary Fertile La Toyah Jackson magazine video staring Vaginal Davis, (1993- 1994). Over the years Rick Castro has lectured about his photography and films globally at Mid-Summa festival, GLBT festival, Gay & Lesbian film festival, New York University, University of California, Los Angeles, Santa Barbra, One Institute, USC, and 18th St. Arts Complex.
As a photographer he has created portraits for producer Alan Poul, porn star Peter Berlin, writer Gore Vidal, director Kenneth Anger, performance artist, Ron Athey, punk legend Alice Bag, actor Guillermo Diaz, model Tony Ward, “drag terrorist” Christeene, influencer Salvia, fashion diva Michele Lamy, and the 14th Dalai Lama… He has created editorial photos for Christian Dior Homme, Cartier jewellery and Rick Owens. His photography was included in Rick Owens: Inhuman Subhuman Superhuman- Triennale di Milano, Ron Atheys: Queer Communions, Participant Gallery, NYC and ICA, Los Angeles.
Ricks films are archived at UCLA Legacy Projects. His books and photographs are archived by the Alfred Kinsey Institute, Ind, UCLA library, Westwood, Chicago Leather Museum, IL, El Insulto Archive y Libreria, Mexico City, One Institute, USC, Leslie/Lohman Museum, NYC and Tom Of Finland Foundation, Echo Park.
He’s had two books published of photography, Castro,(1990, published by the Tom of Finland Foundation) and 13 Years of Bondage, (2004, Fluxion Editions).
From 2005- 2017, Rick founded and ran Antebellum Gallery Hollywood; dedicated to fetish as art. He was the 2014 recipient- artist lifetime achievement award – Tom of Finland foundation, and was featured in the historic first queer issue of Los Angeles Magazine.
Rick, honoured to be chosen as one of twenty-four chosen artists to be part of Pride Publics presented by One Archives in lieu of Pride Parade West Hollywood , traveling to Los Angeles State Park and Intercultural Community Center.
He is on the committee that creates the annual Tom of Finland art fair since 2015 and received two artist grants from Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, and one from the city of West Hollywood. Currently Rick Castro is a regular writer and photographer for AnOther Magazine in the UK.
Where are you from, where are you based now and can you let us a little about both?
I was born and raised in Monterey Park, a quiet suburb of Los Angeles.
I moved to Hollywood when I was seventeen and currently live in East Hollywood, yes there is a difference. Hollywood is the touristy area with the stars names printed on the decaying streets. East Hollywood is an urban combination of ThaiTown and Little Armenia. I did live in New York City during the mid~eighties and traveled around the world during the late nineties, but always come back to LA. I’m third generation Los Angeleno. My one hundred year old father still lives in the house where I grew up.
How have you seen LA change over time?
I watched LA go from being a sleepy, sprawling collection of suburbs to becoming one of the major centers of ideas on earth. Many cultural shifts and civil rights battles originated in Los Angeles, like Black Power, Chicano Movement, Feminism, and Gay Liberation. And then of course there’s Hollywood which has permeated everything.
You’ve shot portraits of some very notable people, can you share some of you favorite experiences with them?
I’ll give you a contrast~
My tea master Bryan Mulvihill, AKA Trolley Bus hired me to photograph the tea salons he was creating in conjunction with the World Festival of Sacred Music during 2000. I spent a week with the tea master and his tea servants brewing & pouring tea at various locations~ churches, synagogs which culminated at a huge festival at the Hollywood Bowl dedicated to the 14th Dalai Lama. So I got to photograph the Dalai Lama as Seventeen thousand people watched.
I was Invited by legendary filmmaker Kenneth Anger to spend the weekend in Palm Springs where he was living at the crumbling Al Jolson estate. He asked me what I would most like to do while I was there. I hesitated to answer and he snapped at me, “Speak up Rick Castro! You will never get anything in this life unless you ask!” “Ok, I responded, I want to photograph you nude with my model.” I got what I asked for.
How do you feel photography has changed, in fact pop culture as well?
In the late seventies/early eighties, photography as art was just beginning to be recognized as something important to invest in. Sam Wagstaff, lover and patron to Robert Mapplethorpe, single~handedly created the interest in collecting homoerotic photography as art. Herb Ritts exhibited outtakes from the many commercial photographs he was taking. I was working as his wardrobe stylist so had privy to this. By the time I started shooting in 1986 there was a new market for photo collecting, and the beginning of homoerotic photo collecting. In Los Angeles I was part of that first wave.
Tell us a little about your 2 books, Castro & 13 Years of bondage
My first book, Castro, (DPR press) came out in 1991. Durk Dehner president of the newly created Tom of Finland Foundation approached me at my first exhibition and asked if I would like to have my photography published. He was also my first collector.
13 Years of Bondage: The Photography of Rick Castro, (Fluxion Editions) was a co-publication between myself and graphic artist Mark Harvey premiered in 2004.
The emphasis on this book is strictly BDSM. I was fixated on bondage and created an entire archive of images.
Whats draws your attention and what gives you motivation?
This has changed over the years. In the early years~ 1986-1990, I was running around with a newly photographic eye, shooting everything I came across. A new photographer is similar to a baby learning to walk. Its like looking at life again and this time seeing it through your lens perspective. In the Nineties I fixated on street hustlers, male lust and the combination of BDSM. In the twenty-first century I’m more laid back, motivated by a nice cuppa tea.
Your favourite and least favourite periods of time?
Without hesitation, the 1970s was the golden era for me. I was a gay young blade living on my own for the first time. Experiencing Hollywood with the backdrop of Glam, disco punk, and gay cultural milestones happening around me in sequence.
My least favourite time is now~ the 2020s are harsh and unforgiving. We are in the process of collapse.
What are you working on currently and what will be seeing next from yourself?
My short films were presented as part of Film Maudit. A virtual film festival based on Jean Cocteau, February, 2022. My photography is part of a huge exhibition from the archives of The Tom of Finland Foundation, presented at the Venice Biennale, and Paris at Community Centre, April & May. I have a solo exhibition at the location that was once the original Circus of Books in July. This was a shop in West Hollywood notorious in its day for poppers, porn and cruising.
I’m organizing a new book and hope to see myself touring with a retrospective called The Nine Lives of Rick Castro.
Where can we find you online?