Arthur Tress (Nov. 24, 1940- ) is one of the most renowned and innovative photographers of his generation, which includes such noted photographers as Duane Michals, Ralph Gibson, and Jerry Uelsmann. Often staging or directing work, or repurposing found materials or scenes in an inventively subjective manner, Tress’s work is rich with implication and fantasy. Impeccably composed, the photographs appeal to our curiosity and our imagination. Constantly exploring the worlds around him, Tress continues as one of photography’s most singular and consistently original practitioners. Whether photographing skaters and their skate parks, views of Morro Rock on California’s Central Coast, or exploring the spontaneous theater of the found detritus along any sidewalk, all the world is open to investigation by Tress and his camera.
Born in Brooklyn in 1940, Tress began his photography career as a teenager, photographing the dilapidated buildings and denizens of Coney Island. He attended Bard College, studying art and art history, as well as world culture and philosophy (under Heinrich Blücher). After graduation Tress moved to Paris and attended film school, followed by travels through Europe, Egypt, Japan, India and Mexico. Returning to New York City in 1968 he pursued a career as a professional photographer and had his first one-person exhibition, “Appalachia-People and Places,” at the Smithsonian Institute and the Sierra Gallery (New York City). He then worked as a documentary photographer for V.I.S.T.A. from 1969-1970. A commission from the New York State Council on the Arts allowed Tress to produce Open space in the inner city; ecology and the urban environment (1971). His book, The Dream collector (1972), with staged photographic works based on his interviews with children and reenactments of their dreams is now considered a classic in the photobook literature. With Theater of the mind (1976) Tress moved to adult fantasies and began a period of overtly erotic work. In Facing up (1980), Tress moved to openly gay photographic fantasies.
His major retrospective “Talisman” traveled from 1986-1988, opening at the Photography Gallery in London and then moving to the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfort, and the Musee de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium. In 2001 the Corcoran Gallery of Art featured a retrospective of his work entitled “Arthur Tress: Fantastic Voyage: Photographs 1956-2000” which examined his long and varied career. Receiving a Lucie Award for Achievement in Fine Art photography in 2012, Tress’s works are widely exhibited and published. The 2¼ format continues to be his format of choice, his Hasselblad his constant companion.