Emulation: Tony Gleaton
From 1988 to 1995, Los Angeles-born Tony Gleaton photographed communities of African descendants in Mexico, Central and South America. The portraits are shot straight-on with beautiful simplicity. They depict children and adults, boys and girls, fishermen and couples on their wedding day. The common thread between the pictures in Gleaton's “I Have Almost 500 years: Africa’s Legacy” series is the sobriety of the expressions on his subjects' faces. There is remarkably ambiguous depth in their eyes, a restrained gaze that I find utterly intriguing. I am not in a position to explore the faces of a foreign culture but I think the visual quietude of Gleaton’s photographs is something present in all of us.
I attempted to replicate this sentiment using my high school peers as subjects, a task which initially appeared simple… deceptively so. As I began to shoot I ran into quite a few problems. One of my biggest issues, and an observation I find exceedingly interesting, was the sensitivity of my friends to the camera. We are a culture deeply accustomed to photos and it is instinctual for us to pose when confronted with a camera. It was difficult for me to assert myself enough to illicit the expressions I desired, and I became increasingly frustrated with my results. Gleaton, I finally concluded, was working with individuals unaccustomed to the inundation of photographic imagery. Therefore, he seemed able to more naturally capture his subjects’ less adulterated expressions.