Tony Gleaton was born in 1948 in Detroit, the youngest  son of a elementary school teacher and a police officer. In 1959 his family moved to California where he lived till joining the Marine Corps in 1967 at the age of 19.  After completing a tour of duty in Vietnam he returned to California and a undergraduate admission to UCLA.   Becoming interested in photography in 1974 he pursued the interest on his own, eventually traveling to New York where he worked as a photographic assistant and various other jobs as he aspired to become a fashion photographer.   In 1980 he left New York,  hitchhiking  throughout the  American West doing odd jobs and photographing Cowboys. Finally concentrating on Native American ranch hands and Blacks Rodeo riders.   He stopped in Texas where he was befriended by a group of Black Rodeo performers. Those times in Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Kansas and Colorado eventually  formed the core of his COWBOYS: Reconstructing an American Myth.  A series of Photos and portraits of African-, Native-,  Mexican and Euro-American Cowboys.

In the process he was introduced to Mexican rodeo and began traveling to and from  Mexico with a group of Charros from Los Angeles.  Sharing an apartment with a stunt man from Churubusco Studios in Mexico City 1982 through 1988, began  a seven year period of extensive travels in Mexico.     Two years latter Tony established a household with the Tarahumara Indians of northern  Mexico   where he came and went for almost  two years before traveling to Guerrero and Oaxaca.  There he began his most well known project, Africa's Legacy In Mexico   (photographs of the present day descendants of the Black African slaves brought to New Spain in the 15, 16 and 1700's).  Africa's Legacy was eventually exhibited by the Smithsonian Institutions Traveling Exhibition Service in the US and toured in Mexico and Cuba by the Mexican National Council of Art.  Tony worked  from 1992 through 1996,  expanding  his project to include Central and South America.   Traveling over 50,000 miles on the ground to over 16 countries to complete,  Tengo Casi 500 Años:  Africa's Legacy In Mexico, Central & South America. 

In 1996 he returned to Northern Mexico, to the Sierra Madre Occidental,  living  with and photographing the Cora, Huichol, Tarahumara, Yaqui, Apache and the coastal dwelling Seri. 

Artist Statement

I love ‘the other’.  I define "the other" as those people who are separated from any dominant cultural group.  My subjects differ from project to project yet there is this common theme.  In revealing these others I reveal us all. My work examines our common elements and the disparities, which in making us different, also binds us together in the human condition. These photographs are metaphors for the state of grace which lies within us all.

The photographs which I create are as much an effort to define my own life, with its heritage encompassing Africa and Europe, as it is an endeavor to throw open the discourse on the broader aspects of "mestizaje" ... the "assimilation" of Asians, Africans and Europeans with indigenous Americans.

The images I produce, most often, are ones in which people directly and openly look into the camera, yet the most important aspect of these portraits is the giving a narrative voice by visual means to people deemed invisible by the greater part of society and in doing so  deliberately crafting an `alternative iconography' of what beauty and family and love and goodness might stand for, one that is inclusive not exclusive.