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Arthur Tress: Rambles, Dreams, and Shadows

Edited by James A. Ganz, with contributions by Mazie M. Harris and Paul Martineau 

This richly illustrated volume is the first critical look at the early career of Arthur Tress, a key proponent of magical realism and staged photography.

Arthur Tress (b. 1940) is a singular figure in the landscape of postwar American photography. His seminal series, The Dream Collector, depicts Tress’s interests in dreams, nightmares, fantasies, and the unconscious and established him as one of the foremost proponents of magical realism at a time when few others were doing staged photography.

This volume presents the first critical look at Tress’s early career, contextualizing the highly imaginative, fantastic work he became known for while also examining his other interrelated series: Appalachia: People and Places; Open Space in the Inner City; Shadow; and Theater of the Mind. James A. Ganz, Mazie M. Harris, and Paul Martineau plumb Tress’s work and archives, studying ephemera, personal correspondence, unpublished notes, diaries, contact sheets, and more to uncover how he went from earning his living as a social documentarian in Appalachia to producing surreal work of “imaginative fiction.” This abundantly illustrated volume imparts a fuller understanding of Tress’s career and the New York photographic scene of the 1960s and 1970s.

This volume is published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center from October 31, 2023, to February 18, 2024.

James A. Ganz is senior curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

"Some of the most interesting material in the Getty catalogue comes from the decade before Tress made his name in the 1970s. He travelled widely in the sixties and his work of that period was straightforwardly documentary; his greatest hero was Cartier-Bresson and he regularly submitted work to Magnum. In 1968, he made a powerful set of pictures of the rural poor in Appalachia, which sit between the work made by Doris Ullman in the 1930s and Shelby Lee Adams in the 1990s."
—Ian Walker, Source

“All in all, this photobook allows readers and viewers multiple leisurely excursions into the fascinating world of Arthur Tress, as we follow him from his own brand of realism all the way to a surrealistic world that stimulates our imagination.”
—Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal

“This is a great introduction to Tress’s work, accompanied by accessible texts that highlight the key themes of the images.”
—Colin Pantall, PhMuseum

“From poignant studies of the country’s Appalachian communities to the urban wreckages and disused spaces of New York, the publication reveals the emergence of Tress’s unique visual language, culminating in the dreamscapes and Surrealistic portraits of The Dream Collector (1972) and Theater of the Mind (1976), two early landmark series.”
—Rowland Bagnall, The Art Newspaper

"Along with several others of his cohort, Arthur Tress spearheaded the resurgence of the directorial mode in the 1970s, as well as his generation's engagement with previously taboo subject matter. With his unique blend of documentary and surrealist approaches, he has made a major contribution to his medium."
—A. D. Coleman, photography critic and historian

264 pages
9 1/2 x 11 inches
17 color and 198 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-861-8

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum