Life & Culture

Inside Fetish Photographer Rick Castro’s New Exhibition, Glory Hole

The ‘King of Fetish’ shares the story behind the photographs featured in his new exhibition on the Tom of Finland Store

In a new online exhibition titled Glory Hole, the ‘King of Fetish’ Rick Castro delves deep into his 30-year archive to unearth a selection of rarely shown photographs. Featuring intimate portrayals of the male body, the Tom of Finland Store exhibition celebrates fetish and BDSM at a time when corporate censorship openly threatens expressions of queer identity. Just this year, Facebook barred Castro from his account for 30 days to prevent him from promoting his exhibition Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986-2019 at the Tom of Finland Foundation.

“It’s depressingly becoming really prevalent,” Castro tells Another Man from his home in Los Angeles. “Everything is becoming G-rated. The guise of community standards has nothing to do with the insidiousness of removing a specific voice (of the LGBTQ community). It's biased and it's very much overkill.”

But Castro has never allowed anyone to silence his voice. In the early years of his career, he struggled to find a venue to show his work. “Up until the internet, fetish never had a huge forum,” Castro says. “But now, it’s being co-opted and gentrified just like everything else.”

With Glory Hole, Castro fights back, showing why he wears the crown and reigns supreme. Here, alongside an exclusive preview of Glory Hole, he shares memories of his encounters with Kenneth Chang, whose photograph graces the cover of the 1992 cult classic The Bondage Book Vol. 1.

“I met Kenneth Chang in the early 90s when I used to do wardrobe. He was an extra and would always get the part of a bouncer or Asian mafia. We hit it off on the set and found out we had mutual kinks in common. We became fast friends and used to hang out.

“Back then I was living on the ground floor of a duplex off Fountain Avenue in West Hollywood. I kept the house ultra minimal because it really was my studio. I lived in the bedroom and used the living room and back patio to shoot. I had the walls painted silver because I loved the reflection and it was a nod to the Warhol Factory.

“A few months after I met Ken, he started to model for me. The head bondage photograph might have been one of the first shoots we did together. That was one of the shoots where I did not do the ropes; they were done by Papa Bear, an expert ropemaster, who was his daddy at the time. Papa Bear learned his knots in the Korean War.

“I usually just used the model and myself. I am very private when I shoot, but because Papa Bear was doing the knots, he was also a part of the shoot. It was just the three of us and we spent the afternoon together. It was very sexy and erotic in an artistic way. Afterward, we all went out and got a drink. It was a nice long day of shooting.

“I remember another shoot we did together at my house. I had a huge picture window in the front yard. Usually when I was shooting I would cover it for privacy but this one particular time we strung him up in the window, then I went outside and was photographing him across the street. Not surprisingly, because this is West Hollywood in the 90s, nobody really noticed or cared. That was that era in that part of town where anything goes – which is as it should be.” 

Rick Castro: GLORY HOLE is on view at Tom of Finland Store through September 30, 2019.