J. Patrick and Patricia A. Kennedy collection of Arthur Tress photographs
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Arthur Tress was born on November 24, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Morton and Yetta Tress, who divorced in 1951. He began photographing his surroundings as early as age 12.
Tress was educated at Abraham Lincoln High School (Coney Island, New York) and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York) in 1962. He then studied in Paris and traveled extensively, photographing his experiences in Africa, Europe, Japan, and Mexico. He lived in San Francisco during the spring and summer of 1964, during which he photographed political, civil rights, and cultural events.
According to his website, Tress "developed an interest in ethnographical photography that eventually led him to his first professional assignment as a U.S. government photographer recording the endangered folk cultures of Appalachia." Over the years, Tress photographs have focused on environmental issues, "combining improvised elements of actual life with stage fantasy, … children's dreams that combined his interests in ritual ceremony, Jungian archetypes and social allegory, [and] the hidden dramas of adult relationships and the reenactments of male homosexual desire." (arthurtress.com/biography).
Tress's styles are distinctively his own, and he is perhaps "best known today for his photographs of staged still-life tableaux," ( Issues in Science and Technology). He was described as "an original in a world obsessed with the second rate," (Philadelphia Gay News). ClampArt states that "Tress evolved a style all his own that is both dreamlike and formally composed out of contemporary subject matter. He takes everyday objects and subverts their function so that they become something of myth holding a quixotic, playful meaning. Magic, theater, and fantasy are the markers in his unique works."
Tress's publications that are represented in this collection include Open Space in the Inner City: Ecology and the Urban Environment (1971), Arthur Tress: The Dream Collector (1972), Shadow. A Novel in Photographs (1975), Theater of the Mind (1976), Male of the Species: Four Decades of Photography by Arthur Tress (1999), Fish Tank Sonata (2000), Arthur Tress: Facing Up (2000), and Arthur Tress San Francisco 1964 (2012).
In 2012, Tress won a Lucie Award for Achievement in Fine Art photograph, and his works are widely exhibited and published.
Arthur Tress. https://arthurtress.com/
ClampArt. "Arthur Tress Biography." https://clampart.com/2012/02/arthur-tress/
Penn Libraries. Kislak Center. Arthur Tress and the Japanese Illustrated Book, exhibition catalog, 2022.
Philadelphia Gay News, Volume 5, Number 8, February 19, 1981, page 13.
"Untitled," Issues in Science and Technology, Volume 29, No. 3, Spring 2013, page 96.
This collection contains photographic prints from fourteen of Tress's series of photographs. The vast majority of prints included in the collection are double weight fiber based gelatin silver black and white prints, with a much smaller number of Cibachrome and Chromogenic color prints. Although there are photographs from a diverse set of geographic regions, the majority were taken in New York City (including Staten Island, Coney Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan), and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Luis Obispo, California.
The series included in this collection were defined prior to gifting and it appears that sometimes photographs may have been part of a series and then published in books under other names that are represented as series. Therefore, researchers should consult multiple series with similar themes.
Titles of photographs in the finding aid were taken directly from the images themselves and reflect Tress's abbreviations. In order to find all photographs related to topics and geographic locations, researchers should perform multiple keyword searches. For example, construction is frequently abbreviated as const.; New York as either NY or NYC, Staten Island as SI, Coney Island as CI, Saint Petersburg as St. Pete., Los Angeles as LA, San Francisco as SF; San Luis Obispo as SLO, San Miguel as SM, Connecticut as Conn, Mississippi as Miss, Canada as CAN, and Venezuela as Ven. Other states are frequently abbreviated with standard postal code abbreviations. Cities and states are not always included—sometimes only cities or only states are mentioned in the titles; and sometimes a location is not mentioned at all. Further, there are occasionally misspellings in the titles (Malibou rather than Malibu; Rockafeller rather than Rockefeller).
This collection is arranged in fourteen series of Tress's work—the series are arranged in alphabetical order and the items within each series are arranged by Tress's image ID. Included in the description of each print are the title of the print (as titled by Tress), any writing or stamping on the print (signature, date, edition, copyright info, notations, etc.) and size of image and the size of the paper on which the image is printed. Unless otherwise noted, the photographs are double weight fiber based gelatin silver black and white prints.
This collection provides a glimpse into the breadth of Tress's long and diverse career as a photographer.
Akimbo. "Arthur Tress: The Tip of an Iceberg" https://akimbo.ca/listings/arthur-tress-the-tip-of-an-iceberg/
American Libraries, Vol. 6, No. 7 (July-August, 1975), pp. 434-435 DeYoung Museum, Exhibition notes: https://deyoung.famsf.org/deyoung/exhibitions/arthur-tress-san-francisco-1964#interview
Eye of Photography: "Arthur Tress, Presidential Cabinet," https://loeildelaphotographie.com/en/arthur-tress-presidential-cabinet/
Kasson, Jim. "Arthur Tress," Center for Photographic Art. (https://photography.org/interview/arthur-tress-interview/)
Meltzer, Steve. "The Dream Collector: How Arthur Tress' Images of Dreams and Nightmares Changed Photography," Shutterbug, 2018 January 16 (https://www.shutterbug.com/content/dream-collector-how-arthur-tress%E2%80%99-images-children%E2%80%99s-dreams-and-nightmares-changed)
Museum of Contemporary Art. "About the Photographer: Arthur Tress." (https://www.mocp.org)
Rhem, James. "Arthur Tress: Finding Us in the Other," Focus Magazine, December 1, 2021 (https://www.focusphotomag.com/photographerfocus/arthur-tress-finding-us-in-the-other/)
Richard Photo Lab. "Arthur Tress: 60 Years of Hauntingly Fascinating Photos." https://www.richardphotolab.com/blog/post/arthur-tress-60-years-hauntingly-fascinating-photos
Sims, Judith. "Fish Tank Sonata," Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1992 (https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-08-16-tm-6832-story.html)
Stanford University. "Arthur Tress Photograph Collection: A Stanford Libraries Special Collections Exhibition" (https://exhibits.stanford.edu/tress)
Trinh, Jean, "Neat Photos: Modern Los Angeles Through a Tilted Lens", July 8, 2014 (https://laist.com/news/entertainment/neat-photos-modern-los-angeles-thro)
Williams, Carla. "Tress, Arthur (b. 1940)" (http://www.glbtqarchive.com/arts/tress_a_A.pdf)
This collection is arranged in fourteen series:
Series I: Dream Collector Series II: Elmer Series III: Facing Up Series IV: Fish Tank Sonata Series V: Male of the Species Series VI: Open Space Series VII: Pointers Series VIII: Presidential Cabinet Series IX: Requiem for a Paperweight Series X: San Francisco Series XI: Shadow Series XII: Spray Series XIII: Still Life Seires XIV: Theatre of the Mind
Gift of J. Patrick and Patricia A. Kennedy, 2020.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Holly Mengel
- Finding Aid Date
- 2022 November 17
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.