Discovering the Dreams of Arthur Tress

Arthur Tress

Foto Fix: Arthur Tress

Every now and then there is an artist that everyone else knows about – yet we have just discovered – and Arthur Tress is one of these. Although individual images have hooked our eyes over the years, (for instance the Halloween children, above) – we never put it all together – as one artist and one body of work. There is just too much wonderful vision out there to keep track of it all!  We wanted to share Tress’s works with you, in case there is a soul yet to be exposed…

Forty years ago, photographer Tress created a fantastic series of darkly surreal photographs of children’s dreams. “The Dream Collector” (1972) is based on interviews he took with children regarding their dreams and nightmares that were later translated into staged photographs. Tress was one of the earliest photographers to experiment with staged photos to imagine and create new realities – unlike the documentary styles most popular at the time. His imagery set the bar for modern-day creepy – inspirations for The Shining and Friday The 13th immediately come to mind.

Arthur Tress

“… I did an exhibit of my urban environmental photographs at the Sierra Club in Manhattan. As I was doing that series, I photographed a lot of children, because that’s where kids played, along the waterfront. I was asked to do a workshop with a childhood educator named Richard Lewis who does workshops on creativity and children. One year he did children’s dreams, getting kids to write poems and paintings from their dreams and he called me in to photograph his class. So I said, you know, that’s a terrific idea, and I’m going to pursue that by asking children and my friends what dreams they remembered from childhood.” –  Edited, Via Gothamist

“In recreating these fantasies, there is often a combination of actual dream mythical archetypes, fairy tale, horror movie, comic book and imaginative play. These inventions often reflect the child’s inner life, his hopes and fears, as well as his symbolic transmutation of the external environment, his home or school, into manageable forms…”Arthur Tress, 1972






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