Earlier this year the Getty Museum acquired 66 gelatin silver prints taken by the photographer Arthur Tress from his photo series “The Dream Collector” and “Theater of the Mind”. Beginning his career in the 1960s, Tress originally took ‘straight’ photographs, mostly street scenes, before moving in the direction of surreal, eerie images inspired by the dreams (or should I say nightmares?) of children. A random child was approached and they told the artist about their dreams, which he then artistically re-created in staged scenarios featuring the actual child as the main subject.
The photographs, which were all shot in black and white, display the darker side of a child’s subconsciousness; sinister nightmares that usually take over a person for the rest of their lives. The artist, who turned an abandoned hospital into his artist studio in the 1980s, wanted to “explicitly visualize the terror, excitement, and confusion of childhood by placing children in the center of compositions and surrounding them with a destabilized world.” Some of the photos include Boy with Root Hands (1971), Girl in Mask (1975), Boy in Goldfish Bowl (1970), Child Buried in Sand, Coney Island (1968), Boy in Burnt Out Furniture Store, Newark (1969) and Hockey Player (1972).