Arthur Tress “Boy in the TV”

by Tim Soter


Glad to get a print of this before the edition is gone for good.  Having been a child of the seventies, this one resonates with me – the cabinet TV, the architecture, the kid finding his own imaginary fun outside.  It’s all analog.

The Guardian wrote a nice piece about this photo, talking to Arthur about the series it came from, his most famous, “Dream Collector.”

In the late 1960s, an old schoolmate of mine started doing art projects with young kids. In one, they examined their dreams and used them as the inspiration for paintings and poetry. I was invited to photograph the kids and brought along costumes and masks so they could act out their dreams.

I decided to pursue the project further and came up with a title: Dream Collector. I made a list of themes from children’s dreams, and asked adult friends what they remembered from theirs.

I shot this in Boston on a wintry day in 1972. Children are wonderful actors. I would say I was doing a project on dreams and they would immediately understand – because the worlds of reality, illusion and play are close for them. I noticed this TV set dumped in an abandoned lot in Roxbury, on the edge of Boston. At the time, it was quite a rundown, black neighborhood. There had been riots a couple of years earlier after the death of Martin Luther King and a lot of arson.

A kid was running around playing with a toy gun, so I asked him to get inside the TV. There’s a feeling of anxiety and tension, which you get in dreams, but it is also what an urban boy might be feeling. Violence from around the world is brought to us by the media – even more so today with the internet – which makes the photograph still relevant.