Arthur Tress was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY on November 24, 1940. He took his first photographs while still in elementary school in 1952.
He attended Bard College where he studied art and art history, world culture and philosophy under Heinrich Bluecher. While studying, he continued to photograph and began making short films. He graduated in 1962 with a B.F.A.
After graduation from Bard, Tress moved to Paris to attend film school, but soon left. After traveling through Europe, Egypt, Japan, India and Mexico, he settled in Stockholm, Sweden and worked as a photographer at the Stockholm Ethnographic Museum.
In 1968 he moved back to New York with a commitment to becoming a professional photographer. He had his first one-person exhibition that year, “Appalachia–People and Places”, which was held at the Smithsonian Institute and the Sierra Gallery (New York City). He then worked as a documentary photographer for V.I.S.T.A. from 1969-1970.
Arthur Tress was one of the first artists in the 1970s to break way from street photography and develop a more personal vision, which included manipulating that realty in front of him instead of being just a passive observer.