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Miranda July is the author of three books, most recently the novel The First Bad Man.

I grew up surrounded by books, though not a lot of art books. But my parents had briefly met a young photographer named Arthur Tress, and he gave them his thin soft-cover, The Dream Collector. It sat on our shelves between tomes about Jung and Reich. I was drawn to it because it was filled with pictures of children—haunted, trapped, wistful kids my age. Tress approached them in public places (this was the '70s) and invited them to describe a dream they'd had. He taped these descriptions, then played the tape back, asking the kids to imagine they were still dreaming. Together they made photographs of the dreams. He worked quickly, using whatever props happened to be nearby: steam from a vent, an old staircase, an abandoned wheelchair. He was trying to catch that "transformation" moment, when illusion becomes reality. Tress didn't hide how easy it was—anyone could capture a dream; they just had to listen carefully and intuit what was really important. This book has never stopped being relevant to me. It suggests both a way to work (engaged with the hidden worlds around you) and what might be made from this kind of respectful listening. Something familiar, something problematic, something deeply unsettling—because dreams at any age are so often nightmares.