I Have Harnessed the Shadows: Captured Nightmares by Photographer Arthur Tress

Photo by Arthur Tress, Boy with Root Hands, New York, 1971, via GothamistIn 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.

For more on the Dream Collector series, visit ArtNet. Find more photos from Arthur Tress at Gothamist, the Joseph Bellows Gallery, and ArthurTress.com

Related Posts:

– In the Gray Wood-Mist: Denise Grünstein’s Dark Fairy Tale Photography

– If Only I Could Remember These Dreams: Photography by Norman Reedus

– There is Still Fire in Your Tombs: Troy Paiva’s Lost America Photography


Categories: Art & Inspiration

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8 replies

  1. Wow. These photos are amazing!! So eerie. Loved this post!

  2. This is fascinating! I wish the book wasn’t out of print.

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