This fascinating and unusual fine art portrait series was selected as a finalist in the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. Discover more inspiring work from all 44 of the winners, finalists, jurors’ picks and student spotlight award winners.


My inspiration for my ongoing project, “Dreams,” came from a program targeting those with sleep disorders. The idea of the program was to train frequent dreamers and nightmare sufferers to write down the content of their extraordinary dreams, rewrite it with many different outcomes, and to mentally rehearse these new outcomes daily, until they become quite ordinary.

This got me wondering: what is it with the motif and content of dreams that resonates with all of us?

So, I started to collaborate with dreamers to revisit and reconstruct their dream scenarios and capture them with my camera. In the process, we collectively tried to retrieve details of their dreams and make them as authentic as possible.

As the project evolved, I accumulated stills and videos which exist only in small sections, like slices of dreams, in disrupted or mixed-up orders. I realized that there is perhaps nothing remarkable or exceptional in our dreams—that the oddest adventures are easily predicted, that every moment is really made up of very ordinary things…

[Chapter 1: A Woven Curse]

My project is not only restricted to exploring dreams; I’m also interested in featuring psychological phenomenons including déja vu, sleep walking and dementia. I think it was William Faulkner who once said that when you strike a match in a dark wilderness, it is not in order to see anything better lit—but just to see how much more darkness there is around.

I think this not only applies to certain literature, but to film and photography as well. My work is not really supposed to answer any questions, not even to make them clearer, but rather to explore—along the winded corridor of our unconsciousness—the huge areas of darkness and vagueness in the parallel world.

The dreams that I have reconstructed together with my subjects have great power: they unbind our souls from the “Real.” It is possible that this parallel, dream world is a real world that is gone, and all we have now is a simulacrum, a fake, of the world we once had.

—Amy Luo

Editors’ Note: The video above was produced while Amy Luo was a student at the ICP in New York City. Hope Youngblood is the performer depicted. Youngblood is an original cast member and the current rehearsal director of the immersive theater experience Sleep No More. She is currently using her interest in photography, film and immersive experiences to bring dance and performance to a wider audience. The hands which appear in the video belong to Phil Atkins, who is also a founding member of Sleep No More.