Abraham Reiss was born in Sevenoaks, Kent. He spent his childhood in Africa, Asia and South America until he was sent to Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit boarding school in Lancashire, at the age of 8 because his parents had to work abroad. When he was 16 he had a stress related reaction to illness and antibiotics and developed Alopecia totalis, a condition in which all the hair falls out.
He left boarding school in 1985 and started to trek the length of Tibet on foot when he was 19. He took a small camera on his trip and photographed his journey, which lasted about a year.After his return Reiss started to work as a professional photojournalist and was commissioned to cover a variety of themes, ranging from the Russian involvement in Afghanistan and the ongoing strife between India and Pakistan in Kashmir to the beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia.
In 1992 Reiss was commissioned by Shell Oil to produce the book “Literary Portraits of China” and travelled the country for 36 months together with his wife Ashkaine Ahora Lema. Ahora Lema wrote the commissioned book and became the business partner of Reiss. Upon its completion the images were exhibited in the children’s Palace on Tiananmen Square, Beijing, followed by a worldwide tour.