There’s always an initial moment of pause when you open your eyes, awakening from a vivid dream. Suddenly you’re staring at your ceiling, when just moments before you were walking through a different dimension so intricately detailed that you were convinced it was reality. Patterns on a wall, stacks of books, ambient lighting and the people around you, were all plucked from your everyday experiences in the real world. When these dreams are imbued with scary subject matter and unsettling narratives, they seem even more vivid, and it takes a moment to ground yourself when you shoot up in the night from a pang of terror.
In photographer Amy Luo’s project Dreams, the artist reconstructs the nighttime scenarios of her subjects, capturing them with her camera. Throughout her process, Luo gathers countless details from each person’s dreams in order to make her recreations as authentic as possible. “The inspiration for the project came from a program targeting sleeping disorder, in which frequent dreamers and nightmare sufferers are trained to write down the content of their extraordinary dreams,” she explains. “They then rewrite the dreams with many different outcomes, mentally rehearsing these new trajectories daily, until they become quite ordinary.”
In Luo’s photographs, each dreamer sits in a reconstructed set created from their dream notes, and Luo is careful to get all the details right, even down to the lighting. While one image might radiate with synthetic, fluorescent light, another harnesses the comforting glow of warmer tones. The subjects are positioned within each set, staring off into their given context, often captured in stiff and static poses. Their body language tells us that something isn’t quite right—that these aren’t candid shots from moments in reality. They’re grounded in something else.
While each scenario is different from the next, highlighting the individuality of each subject, all of the photographs come together into a cohesive story that tells us about the greater narrative of our collective dream dimension. Reflecting on these similarities, Luo explains, “I have realized that there is perhaps nothing remarkable or exceptional in our dreams. The oddest adventures are easily predicted, and every moment really is made up of very ordinary things. There is a motif and content in dreams that resonates with all of us.”