In the late 1960’s, New York-based photographer Arthur Tress got the idea to ask children about their dreams. The children described nightmares and fantasies so intriguing and otherworldly that Tress set about creating those dreams in real life, constructing the imagined scene and photographing it for a dark and haunting series, first for a show called Daymares, then collected in the 1973 book, The Dream Collector (now sadly out of print). The photos are striking, covering the spectrum from under-performing at school to being swallowed up by monsters, creating an unsettling range of fears that The Village Voice noted as being uniquely resonant with the viewer:
“Tress’s dream photographs come at you on three levels. First, they are a sequence of Tress’s personal statements, and as such this book can be taken as a sort of ‘Self Portrait,’ with children instead of shadows as the central symbol. Second, they are photographic interpretations of actual children’s dreams recounted to Tress, and thus metaphors for deep-rooted fears within all of us….”
Tress would later go on to create beautiful art from his studio in New York’s hauntingly abandoned Roosevelt Island, and more recently exhibited a collection of photographs from San Francisco during the tumultuous summer of 1964. However, it is hard to deny the potency of these early photos, often considered a landmark in the composition of modern photography, a collection of eerie, surreal images clutching at the very heart of that which is most feared.