Nightmare before photograph

with Nicolas Bruno

Dreams are not intended to make you sleep,
but to wake you up

René Magritte

What do these words mean to you?

This quote really hits home for me — not only because it was spoken from the mind of a great inspiration of mine, but the fact that it correlates with my experiences in art and sleep paralysis directly. Sleep paralysis has been an ongoing occurrence for me ever since the age of 15. I have experienced bone chilling hallucinations and extreme terror during these dreams: faceless silhouetted figures, embraces from shadow-like hands, warping of reality around me — all while being completely paralyzed in the midst of being awake and sleeping. It took a huge toll on my well being for the majority of my life during my sixteenth year, but I have since been able to cope with it by transforming these night terrors into a source of inspiration for my artwork. Without the grasp of my nightmares, I would have not been pulled into the world of art in the same manner.

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Do you think that the “ability” of a dreamer is in a special imaginary talent or simply in his ability to remember dreams?

If you can manage to pair both skills together, it is a gift. One may be able to remember mundane dreams to the T, and others might live their vivacious fantasies with their head to the pillow and forget them in an instant, but to create from your dreams will require you to clutch those surreal moments with a gnarled hand and strike them down onto a flat piece of paper.

How much does madness have to do with the illumination of an artist?

Madness is a driving force. Sometimes you have to allow your brain to go haywire — whether it be with a pen and paper, speaking out loud, or constructing and destroying a work. I have burnt out my brain over conceptualizing ideas that are simply not ready for their creation.



Some say that dreams are wishes. Looking at your subjects, what kind of desires are deduced?

I would not necessarily consider the subjects in my dreams wishes of mine, nor would I never pray for a stranger to stand at the foot of my bed. I do enjoy the afterword ability to embody my subjects with literal and figurative interpretations of the scenarios that I experience in the realm of sleep, which fulfills my wishes in a different manner.

How do you organize your sets, what are the means?

I often gestate six or seven ideas in mind at a time before I venture out to shoot an image, which include my vision of subject matter, location, and method of execution. Photography has taken me down a long path of teaching myself to create in other mediums, so you will often find me tinkering with props and materials in my shop, or stitching up a coat or cloak on the sewing machine. After getting a basis for the image from my sketches I will pinpoint the setting that I assign the image, gather my props and costumes and camera gear, then set off on foot to my location.

My creative process generally begins with in depth planning, but the shoot often begins to dovetail with a bit of sporadic experimentation. The setting for my photograph is often the catalyst for change in my original ideas and aspirations for the final photo. A location may change due to weather patterns and unexpected alteration by nature or humans — abandoned buildings in particular — so I always give myself a generalized plan for the image I will attempt to execute without depending on too many specific details of the location itself.


One of the sets you have never forgotten:

My piece titled Sorgere. This image was both a conglomerate representation of my experiences of being stuck between the realm of sleep and breaking free of my paralytic dreams. The act of vivaciously climbing up the ladder that is submerged in the water with hopes of reaching the surface portrays the struggle and tiring anxiety during these dreams. The act of shooting this photograph was an unplanned performance art piece in itself: Once I had swam out into the water with the ladder, I immediately realized how loose and grotesque the bottom soil of the pond was, and along with the weight of my drenched clothing I began to struggle to stay afloat while holding the not so buoyant ladder. Each of my kicks to stay towards the surface displaced my footing and my ladder proved to be useless upon sinking into the murky floor of the pond. The amount of physical stress and anxiety of staying afloat long enough to complete the picture and be able to swim back to shore in a sopping wet suit was nothing short of the suffering I endured during and after waking from my sleep paralysis.



Who are your models?

I mostly model for myself using a shutter release remote. Otherwise I can also count on my friends and family to jump into a shoot — they support me with whatever strange scenario I am attempting to create and I am truly blessed to have them.

Do you think you just need a good camera to take good photos?

False. The most important thing to remember is that the price and abundance of your photography gear will not make you a better photographer. It is more than possible to create stunning works of art with just your SLR and one or two lenses. Working with the minimal will force you to hone your craft to a point where you will disregard the need to buy excessive lenses and lighting equipment.


The social network: a good thing or a trap for inspiration?

Social networks can be used as an impeccable tool for sharing your vision to the world, but it creates for a pit of repetition for budding photographers that will most likely end up mirroring the same types of images at once. Stray from the computer for inspiration and head outside.

What kind of time we are living in?

We are living a very fast paced world full of distraction and flashing screens and we begin to forget the necessity of slowing down and studying our environment. It has become too easy to capture an image. The artists of the past sometimes worked a decade on one piece of work, and I believe that is what the art world is missing today, especially in the photographic medium. The now fast paced production of artwork begins to deteriorate how rewarding it feels to gestate and bond with a piece of art until it is ready to be released into the world.

What is the right soundtrack for your visions?

A heaping mass of 19th century classical compositions heated over a forge, which is then hammered out and folded with layers of folk and white noise.