Ben Cleeton is a Syracuse documentary photographer and filmmaker who holds a degree in photojournalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (2015). He was born in Syracuse and lived in Geneseo, NY, where his mother, a professor of Sociology, brought public intellectuals to campus. One event that stuck—joining Carrie Mae Weems and bell hooks for pizza in their B&B for a late-night snack. Growing up, he witnessed social and racial inequalities, inspiring the creation of his art as a weapon to dismantle white supremacy and class supremacy. As his father documented Syracuse’s Armory Square art and club scene, he made sure his son grew up with a camera in hand. With his mother’s activism and the inspiration of his father’s eye, Cleeton developed into an ally listening and watching for compelling narratives.
His photographs have appeared in The New York Times (“Here’s Life Among the Ghosts” and “Getting Hockey Referees Ready for the Big Leagues”), These Streets Magazine V.06 (“Embrace 2020”), and online in Black artist series: Joshua Rashaad McFadden in The Undefeated. Syracuse’s Community Folk Art Center hosted his 2015 solo exhibition, Green Eyes: el Viejo. Cleeton’s Hesperus is Risingwon Best Music Video at the Central New York Film Festival in 2018. He was a frequent video collaborator with the late Leo Crandall.