Arthur Tress – San Francisco 1964

Photographs copyright 2012 Arthur Tress & published by Fine Arts Museumof San Francisco & Prestel Books

This catalogue was published concurrent with the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco exhibition of Arthur Tress photographs, taking place March to June 2012. This body of work photographed in 1964 and re-discovered in 2009. Tress acknowledges that there are some original photographs printed in 1964 as well as commissions for new photographs from the original negatives.

These black and white street photographs predates his better known Surrealism photograph project titled “The Dream Collector”. At this time, Tress’s methodology had fewer rules than others creating street photography, as he frequently would act as a director to arrange his subjects for specific compositions, in a sense foretelling of the work yet to come.

Nevertheless, his photographs investigate a specific place at a point of time. The book also serves as a touch point to a developing artist who was quickly approaching his prime. As with other street photographers, as I am thinking of Gary Winogrand and Diane Arbus, who were looking with their cameras in the open while yet themselves were being observed.

Tress does show his powers of observation, finding the fleeting absurd and humorous moments in every day urban life. The juxtaposition of people observed during events, such as the young woman resplendent in a bathing suit while standing on the street next to a very formally dressed (gloves?) and dour “conservative-looking older women”. Two older women perched on a bench suspended on a wall with no visible means as to how they arrived at such a place. The interesting narrative pairing of photographs; a man holding a newspaper is looking across the book’s gutter towards a photograph of man, while the newspaper proclaims Murder in the Park. Did the man in the suit think he saw the murderer?

The book provides an insight into Tress’s photographic process, providing finished photographs adjacent to the raw data of his contact sheets. Throughout this body of work and how it is presented in this book, there is an undercurrent of subtle humor. This book should be of keen interest of those who are following Tress’s career or this genre of stet photography.

A Hardcover with dust jacket and an accompany essay and interview of Tress by James A. Ganz.

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