One day in late May, about two years ago, while on a camera excursion exploring the various docks along the Embarcadero Waterfront, I came upon Pier 54 that had a great grey warehouse set upon it. Around the building, were bits and pieces of parade floats, some new, some old, set against the background of cargo ships, the busy Bay, and the new office skyline of a rapidly changing San Francisco.
The crazy geometric shapes, rainbow hued organizational logos, and assertive GLBT slogans seemed a colorful contrast to the rigid corporate downtown buildings off in the distance .. a small eruption of delightful fantasy and unfettered imagination set amongst the sterile condos and medical facilities of the freshly minted neighborhood.
I returned several afternoons to photograph and beginning in early June, the float trucks were covered with dozens of busy volunteer workers stapling, hammering, and painting, frantically trying to get the Float designs finished in time for the big event. This they managed down to the last minute, a bit to my surprise, and come Sunday, June 24th, early in the morning off all the Float Trucks rolled ,festooned with their bright plumage of celebration and joy — a perfect example of a spontaneous community effort to make that Pride Day, as in the past 50, another great one.
Arthur Tress began his first camera work as a teenager in the surreal neighborhood of Coney Island where he spent hours exploring the decaying amusement parks. Later, during five years of world travel, mostly in Asia and Africa, he 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. Seeing the destructive results of corporate resource extraction, Tress began to use his camera to raise environmental awareness about the economic and human costs of pollution. Focusing on New York City, he began to photograph the neglected fringes of the urban waterfront with a straight documentary approach. This gradually evolved into a more personal mode of “magic realism” combining improvised elements of actual life with stage fantasy that became his hallmark style of directorial fabrication. In the late 1960s Tress was inspired to do a series based upon children’s dreams that combined his interests in ritual ceremony, Jungian archetypes, and social allegory. Later bodies of work dealing with the hidden dramas of adult relationships and the reenactments of male homosexual desire evolved from this primarily theatrical approach.
All images © Arthur Tress, all rights reserved.