Nicolas Bruno

Your photography arises from the hallucinations derived from sleep paralysis. How would you describe this condition for someone who has never experienced it?

A typical sleep paralysis experience will begin with a low and resonating humming or static. I will awaken and attempt to move my limbs, and immediately realize that I am immobilized and unable to fight the situation. Any attempts to scream out or fight back worsen the wave of anxiety and fear that piles onto your chest like a pouring bag of concrete. The room begins to pulsate and faceless figures will begin to emerge from the corners of my room, either floating towards me or hovering at the foot of my bed. They use a telekinetic force to alter the space by slamming doors, knocking things off of the shelves, or grasp me by the throat. The room will seem to fill up with water as I begin to choke, all the while my ears are being filled with blown out static and screaming noises. After fighting for what seems like hours, I will break free from the paralysis and wake up shivering and heavily breathing.

In what way does photography act as a therapeutic instrument for you? What is the process that leads you to one of your photos?

By transforming my otherwise intangible thoughts into a physical piece of art, I have effectively found a way to remove the stresses from my conscience and allowed them to exist outside of my head. By doing this process, it gave me a way to talk about my experiences, rather than just trying to describe them. My work also helps other sufferers get the courage to make their own dream artwork, or use my artwork and story to explain their situation to their family and friends. I keep a journal on the side of my bed where I document them upon waking up. Drawings, words, descriptions, and other bits of media are stored in the journal to help me create a basis for my next image. It’s important to immediately document it when waking up, otherwise, you will lose the clarity of the dream during the day.


Being your photos so intimate -and necessary in a sense for you- how would you define your relationship with the viewer? What is that you want to convey to a stranger that looks at your photos?

I hope to give my viewers an in-depth vision into the world of sleep paralysis and help people understand what a sufferer will endure each night. A goal of mine is to inspire other sufferers to transform their negative experiences into a positive outlet such as art or music. I want to use my work as a platform for others to find the information they need to learn more about this sleep condition.

Can we say that this therapeutic function of photography can be useful for everybody to a certain degree?

Art, specifically photography, can be an incredibly powerful tool for therapy. Cameras are becoming more abundant and cheaper. It does not require an immense amount of skill to operate a camera at a basic level. This allows a person with little to no skill to begin experimenting with their camera, creating images that tell their own story. Self-portraiture can help you decipher complex thoughts and ultimately make you more comfortable with your stressful personal/interpersonal situations and stresses.

Have you ever taken into consideration expanding your photography beyond the boundaries of sleep paralysis? If yes, in what direction? Where do you see your photography is headed to?

Aside from my sleep paralysis photo series, I like to explore creating fantasy/historical imagery with storytelling and handmade costumes. Most of this work can be seen through Fell And Fair, the group of artists that I shoot compositions for. As for my own photography, I’m looking forward to creating more intricate scenes with handmade sculpture and making new characters through costume design.

There are many references in your composition and lighting to some great artistic movements of the past. Who are the artists that most have influenced you?

I often look to the past to influence my creations, particularly the works of Romanticists of the 19th century. I enjoy the works of Goya, Caspar David Friedrich, and John Atkinson Grimshaw.

As a young artist, what is your relationship with social media? How do you feel these condition your craft and possible career? Are you a total enthusiast or are there certain effects you don’t like of these means on photography?

I have built my social media up through video interviews, article features, and sharing the work that I am most proud of. I’ve found that it helps to submit to small-scale blogs for a variety of reasons: it helps them provide new and fresh content to their users, they have a smaller yet unique/engaged following, and they tend to set the trends for bigger news sites.  Spending an hour each day searching for the right avenues of submissions will help you grow your online presence organically and steadily. You never know when one of your articles will spark interest in the curator of a gallery, a writer at a large news agency, or even a potential buyer. If you curate your social media to share your strongest work, take the time to submit to publications and stay focused, you will see surprising results.

The photo you are most emotionally attached to? Why?

My most recent work “Attesa” is one that I’ve been resonating with the most. I’ve depicted the way I feel during a moment of sleep paralysis, where the figure is laying immobile directly under a 145lb blacksmith’s anvil which is tethered to a rope, slowly unwinding due to the candle burning underneath it. The water rushes under my feet and begins to rise. There are many symbols within this image –  the anvil symbolizing the pressure I feel upon my chest, the water rising being the feeling of drowning, the candle burning becomes the spark of anxiety I get upon waking while immobile.

A soundtrack to your photos? Why this choice?

I listen to a wide array of music due to being a hobbyist musician. I have yet to find the correct soundtrack to my works, but I look forward to working with a composer to create a score based on my portfolio.

Next and upcoming projects?

I am currently gathering funding to complete a VR project that will hopefully launch this autumn. Otherwise, I am creating new works and developing new concepts in my studio on Long Island, NY

Credits: Nicolas Bruno

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