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July 20, 1958 |
Los Angeles, California
Castro began work as a fashion stylist and clothing designer. Over the years, he worked for as a stylist on fashion shoots or designed clothing for Marlene Stewart, Bette Midler, Herb Ritts, the style agency Cloutier, George Hurrell, Interview magazine, GQ magazine, Vanity Fair magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, I-D magazine, Tina Turner and John Leguizamo.
In 1986, photographer Joel-Peter Witkin bought him his first automatic camera. In 1988, at the age of 30, Castro became a freelance photographer, and his work appeared in the Los Angeles gay news magazine Frontiers and the national gay news magazine The Advocate.
His first solo exhibition, "Nothing But A Man, Everything But A Woman", debuted in 1989 at A Different Light Bookstore in Silver Lake, a suburb of Los Angeles. It was followed a year later by "Mass Murder & A Cute Boy" at the same location.
Throughout the years, Castro has had a number of exhibitions, including "Furotica: It Ain't Exactly Bambi" at the Track 16 gallery in Los Angeles, 2004.
Castro's work is collected by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.
His 1994 short film of hustler interviews inspired Bruce LaBruce to film Hustler White with Tony Ward. Castro collaborated on the film as writer and co-director with LaBruce, which became an international sensation. Castro has directed a number of other short films and a documentary.
He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he is the L.A. correspondent for the Australia-based Studio Magazines, publisher of the nude male art photography magazine Blue.
Since November, 2005, Castro owns and runs Antebellum Gallery, the only fetish art gallery in America, and perhaps the world. www.antebellum.us.ms
Castro shot the F/W lookbook 2014 for designer Rick Owens using his 93-year-old father Al Castro, as the featured model.
During October, 2015, Rick Castro received an artist lifetime Achievement award from the Tom of Finland foundation.
Castro works predominately in black-and-white photography.
Castro himself says his work is highly time-bound, linked to the 1980s and early 1990s:
My documentation is a time capsule of that period. The early 80s started off with the leftover freedoms and hedonism of the 70s, then plunged into the darkness and fear that accompanied AIDS. Sex was once again demonized, as it had previously been in the Victorian era and the 50s. ... As fear of sex and the religious right gained even more power, the undercover police constantly patrolled the streets. At the same time drugs (crack, 'Tina') became harsher as the unstable economy created desperation on the street. Then the Internet came along with a network of online brothels and eventually wiped out the street scene entirely.
In many ways, Castro can almost be said to be a historical photographer, recreating images and looks from that time period rather than capturing contemporary styles. "Nostalgia" is not a word one usually associates with BDSM photography, but in Castro's case it may be an apt adjective.
Good as it is, Castro's photography also stands squarely in the quasi-religious tradition of most BDSM photography. The art historian and critic Edward Lucie-Smith has pointed out that Castro's work is deeply rooted in religious art, especially Catholic art of the Baroque period. The believer, suffering for his beliefs, is mimicked by the gay man, suffering for his homosexuality. The ecstasy of martyrdom is mimicked by the ecstasy of sex. These themes were explored by the great Christian Baroque painters, and Castro's bondage photography—like most bondage photography—draws heavily on these paintings for its poses.
But Castro's photography transcends run-of-the-mill BDSM imagery. Writer Mark Christopher Harvey notes that Castro's photography "can be viewed as a long form of meditation—not only on the aesthetic virtues of bondage but also on the psyche of sex itself..." Harvey points to the "wry humor" that is often missing in more commercially inspired or less artistic BDSM photographs.
But in including humor in his work, Castro confounds the Baroque—which focuses on simple, strong, dramatic expression—in favor of Mannerism. Yet he avoids the self-conscious, overcharged, unnaturally detailed, jarring elements of Mannerism.
Castro's work move beyond mere artistic characteristics, however, and captures the sexual fetishism of BDSM as well. The transgressive nature of leather fetishism—harkening back to 'bad-boy' filmic images made popular by James Dean and Marlon Brando—intersects with the transgressive nature of homosexual sex and promiscuity in the era of AIDS. Castro's images have power because they are those of the true fetishist. These are not images produced by 'just any' photographer who can hire a handsome model and buy a leather harness off the rack at a local sex shop. Castro's images reflect the imagination and variety of BDSM and leather fetishists; they create and lead, rather than follow, popular culture and sexual fashion.
In these ways, Rick Castro's photographic work rises above that of other BDSM photographers.
- Castro, Rick (1991). Castro. Bondage Series. Los Angeles: Tom of Finland Foundation. ISBN 1-879055-27-9.
- Castro, Rick; Olley, Michelle; Childers, Michael; Flynt, Robert (2000). Homme. Masterpieces of Erotic Photography. (in German). Edition Olms. ISBN 3-283-00368-8.
- Castro, Rick (2004). 13 Years of Bondage: The Photography of Rick Castro. Bondage Series. Los Angeles: Fluxion Editions. ISBN 0-9672129-4-4.
He has also self-published the following hand-made books:
- The Bondage Book #1. 1992.
- The Bondage Book #2. 1993
- The Bondage Book #3. 1994
- The Bondage Book #4. 1996
- 1992: Automolove
- 1994: 45 Minutes of Bondage
- 1996: Hustler White
- 1998: Another 45 Minutes of Bondage
- 1999: Plushies and Furries