ArtCrush: Rick Castro

This is the art we want on our walls.

ArtCrush: Rick Castro

With a body-of-work spanning 30 years, Fetish photographer Rick Castro documents and celebrates all forms of fetish and BDSM desires.

One of his recent projects is the Virtual Photo series.

“My Virtual Photo Series is created on Zoom with screen shots…” explains Rick. “The quality is substandard, but the mood is perfect! I’ve come to appreciate the low-quality and the way many millennials obsess on zines and zine culture from the 80s – something I was very much part of.”

“During the 80s, one of the few ways to connect with like-minded people was through self-created, one-of-a-kind zines. Most were handwritten and xeroxed. The quality was zero to none, but the spirit and heart was 100 percent.”

“Zoom is the zine forum of today. I’m using the medium that is available now and reaching out, allowing us to share our stories and sensualities with one another – in a virtual way.”

The legacy of Tom of Finland

A while back, I caught up with Rick Castro for a behind-the-scenes look at his work and to discuss how Tom of Finland has helped shape the landscape for gay erotic art.

How has the work of Tom of Finland influenced your aesthetic as a photographer?

I originally experienced Tom’s work on a visit to San Francisco, way back in 1978! It was a revelation for me to see hyper-sexualised homoerotic art done so well.

I didn’t start taking photos until 1986. It was the freedom aspect of Tom’s work that inspired me the most.

Is it the inherent drama of the fetish scene that makes fetish a good photography subject?

Yes, and many other things. I like the psychology, the obsession, the pageantry. I find fetish aesthetically pleasing – it turns my crank.

Challenging censorship is one of the themes that you explore in your work. In a post-marriage equality world, are we censoring ourselves? Are guys that are into fetish undermining the aspirations of the good gays to be accepted as normal?

Self-censoring within the gay community has gone on since I can remember. Back in the early Pride parades, there was everything and anyone. By anyone, I mean some very non-PC factions, including pagan lesbians from Petaluma – which I have no problem with – and NAMBLA – which I have a big problem with. The fringe was the first to go.

BDSM has reluctantly been allowed a forum, but if you know gay history – and I do – it wasn’t embraced for many years by ‘mainstream’ gays. Of course, none of this compares to the continuous censoring by the hetero-normative mainstream. Queer culture has been censored since forever.

The 1950s aren’t coming back. Fetish has been around forever – check out Alfred Kinsey’s research from 1947, and the writings from the Marquis de Sade in the 18th century, to that mundane 50 Shades of Grey franchise. Fetish is normal.

How does your photography help us to embrace queer sexuality and challenge censorship?

Perhaps by simply being there and having a long history as a presenter of fetish as art and lifestyle. Once again, censorship has reared its ugly head – this time in social media. It’s important for all to push back. Once something is removed, there is no representation – we become unknown, isolated, and non-existent.

Sexuality is fluid and unlimited. We all have a kink – many of us have more than one. Live it. Do it!

Why is Tom of Finland such a lasting influence on our perception of gay male identity and sexuality?

First off, Tom of Finland was an incredible artist – the work speaks for itself. Tom’s art is historically important as a gay man of his era presenting unapologetic homoerotic art.

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