Arthur Tress comments on placement of archive with Stanford Libraries

April 1, 2019
Arthur Tress & Peter Blank

Arthur Tress and Peter Blank (June 2018)

We are thrilled that Arthur Tress has entrusted Stanford Libraries with the care of his archive and legacy. As is typical of his generous nature, Arthur has very kindly offered to share his thoughts on the placement of his archives with Stanford. They make clear one of the major differences between the role of the museum and the role of the library when it comes to collecting photographers' materials, especially for a library that exists within a major research and teaching university such as Stanford. Museums are ideally equipped to engage with a more limited, focused collection of a photographer's production. Libraries, on the other hand, are able to take a much broader, more encompassing approach to a photographer's career and oeuvre and therefore are keenly interested in all aspects of the photographer's life -- prints from all series, letters, ephemera, etc. -- thus literally preserving the artist's legacy in toto. Regardless of the momentary focus of any particular researcher, the Stanford Libraries holistic approach allows the multiple facets of the photographer's life to be fully discoverable. With a photographer such as Arthur Tress -- long lived, wide ranging in terms of subjects and series and still producing exceptional work -- it is essential that the archive be collected and housed as a complete entity. Arthur's comments follow.

“As an older photographer who has been shooting for over sixty years, I have always been conscious that at some point I would want my life's work preserved and made available in a comprehensive way to museum curators, research scholars, and the next generation of visually literate students. Therefore I have been careful to keep a scrupulous record of my lifetime’s image making, with carefully ordered boxes of negatives, contact sheets, and darkroom made prints, but also all the odd ephemera that accumulates over a long career (the personal and professional letters, the exhibition and gallery announcements, the magazine articles, reviews and book publications), all meticulously arranged by subject and year from 1955 to 2018. When Stanford Libraries asked me if I would consider them as the repository for my lifetime's archive I was very pleased as I knew it was a good match for what I wanted to accomplish.”

“Stanford Libraries Special Collections recently created a new full time position of "Photography Curator," which indicated a significant commitment within their recently launched Photography Initiative. The University, with their interconnected programs of art history and photography as well as sociology, psychology, and cultural studies, will be able to take full advantage of sharing my work within a broad range of student interests.”

“Also, Stanford Libraries has a professional staff who through websites and exhibition loans can disseminate knowledge of my work far beyond the University and reach a national and international audience via publications and shows, as they have done with other library archives such as Allen Ginsburg's and Buckminster Fuller's. So I am quite pleased that the Tress archive at Stanford will be preserved and made accessible for future generations."

[See blog post announcing Tress archive’s placement at Stanford Libraries.]