In the summer of 1964, San Francisco was ground zero for a historic culture clash as the site of the twenty-eighth Republican National Convention and the launch of the Beatle’s first North American tour. Having graduated from Bard College in 1962, Arthur Tress moved to Paris to attend film school, travelled to Japan, Africa, Mexico and through most of Europe and in 1964 at twenty-three years old, found himself in San Francisco, immersed in a hotbed of cultural and political transformation. Tress, who went on to become one of America’s most beloved and accomplished photographers, known for his dreamlike and surreal imagery, created what is perhaps his first mature documentary work during this time. He shot over nine hundred negatives and captured a wide and sophisticated array of city life including political rallies, civil rights demonstrations, and street scenes.
Tress developed and printed his black and white negatives in a communal darkroom in the city’s Castro district before leaving San Francisco in the fall of 1964. The vintage prints were stored in his sister’s home, where they remained untouched until 2009. The rediscovery of this forgotten body of photographs inspired the photographer to revisit his early negatives. The work publically debuted in a major exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco from March 3 – June 3, 2012 and is now available in the companion monograph Arthur Tress San Francisco 1964 published by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2012.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Arthur Tress studied art and art history at Bard College and received his B.F.A. in 1962. His first one-person exhibition was held simultaneously at the Smithsonian Institute and at the Sierra Gallery, NYC in 1968. In 1971 and 1976 Tress was the recipient of grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in 1972. He is noted as one of the first artists of the 1970’s to break away from street photography to develop a more personal vision characterized by his willingness to manipulate reality and to utilize the photographic medium in an expressive style.
Tress’ photographs have been the subject of exhibitions and retrospectives worldwide and are housed in permanent collections including those at the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the Whitney Museum of Art, NY; LACMA, SFMoMA; Centre Georges Pompidou; Bibliotheque Nationale; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the International Museum of Photography, Rochester, NY, to name a few.
Monographs of his work include Arthur Tress: The Dream Collector, 1972; Theater of the Mind, 1976; Arthur Tress: Fantastic Voyage – Photographs 1956-2000, 2001; Memories: Photographs by Arthur Tress, Poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, 21st Editions, 2003.
Image and text courtesy of Artweek.LA