Granting creative permission.

by Tim Soter


I’ve had my next book“ForTress” about photographer Arthur Tress laid out to about 85% completion, for most of this year, but I haven’t finished it because it seemed stiff and didn’t have a strong enough narrative direction.  Mostly because it was stiff.  I had been following my design layout from the previous book, which had worked fine for “TIM! GO AWAY!” but what I have to say about Arthur different and the book needs a design that reflects his looser style of thinking.

Over the years Arthur has offered me a lot of simple “outside of the box” ideas.  “Fumetti” was an book idea given to me by Arthur, a simple combination of my two loves – comic books and 4″ by 6″ prints.  He once showed an idea where he soaked a fine art book, a large Paul Strand monograph, in water for a week and then let it dry.  When the viewer looked through this “modified” book the pages would stick together, ripping in sections to reveal spontaneously created montages (see BELOW.)  He has an infinite amount of creative book ideas.






In that spirit I forced myself into a breakthrough by making color laser prints of layouts and photos from “ForTress”  – and painted on them or added collage.  The battle for me was not wondering if the result was a success or not.  In one spread I had a black rain cloud speaking its way out of Arthur’s camera.  I had been emailing these collage/painting examples to him as I made them but for this one I felt compelled to add a disclaimer.

“The reigning black cloud coming out of your camera doesn’t in anyway accurately describe you, it’s just what came out of my head.”

What he responded with was permissive and generous but also an excellent lesson.  Not many photographers/artists/mentors would respond in this way.


“dear Tim

your right !

that is a great collage..of course it does..remember dont censor

it is alright to be critical and sharply cruel

forget the polite.

dont apologise for what comes or oozes out of your head

your not in small minded Kutztown anymore

insightful is never insulting..

dont ask for permission..

very perceptive of you

perhaps cut up some of my book plates!

and combine them with y our new color materials

try to explain through the collages what is my particular creative process and personal vision.?

i can replace the books for you..most anyway

I have moldering boxes of them in the basement.

illustrate you opinions about me that can be negative

 pitiful, sorrowful..

I wont mind I will respect it..

Arthur the Tress..enlightened master for hire”