Wildest Dreams

Dark visions from childhood imaginations

01 April 2017
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IN AN IMAGE from Arthur Tress’s photography series Dream Collector, a small blond boy sits in a hole in a dilapidated roof, with only his head, arms and upper torso visible. A muddy wasteland, dotted with pools of water, stretches out behind him. The boy’s expression is peaceful amid the decay.

Years later, in a book titled Contact Sheets, Tress described the shooting of this image as a moment of “spontaneous accidental ‘improvisation’ done on the spot.” In 1970, as he was driving down a small coastal road in the eastern American state of Maryland, he came across a broken roof that had been abandoned on a long pier. The blond boy appeared on his bicycle, as if out of nowhere, and Tress asked him to pose for the photo. It was, he said, one of those “strange moments which transforms the ordinary to a special archetypical space.”

Such moments occurred often during the making of Dream Collector. Tress shot the series between 1969 and 1974, and, aside from the image of the boy and the roof, captured all of its photographs in and around New York City. Tress would approach children in various public locales and talk with them about strange dreams and nightmares—sometimes his, sometimes their own. Then, he and the children worked together to stage those dreams for the photographs, using props from their surroundings.

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    Arthur Tress is a photographer based in the United States.

    Keywords: photography documentary children New York City Dream Arthur Tress nightmare