Invisible: Laura Williams Talks About Her Surreal Self-Portrait that Went Viral


Surreal self-portraits from young photographers are nothing new. In fact, one could say there are almost too many of them out there. But that makes it that much more impressive when a young photog breaks out of the pack and catches the attention of the masses.

That’s exactly what 18-year-old photographer and college student Laura Williams did with her viral self-portrait series ‘Invisible.’

The main viral image, the one that reached the front page of Reddit and earned her Flickr stream hundreds of thousands of views, was the one you see above. Using a mirror that she found in her aunt’s house, she created the illusion that her torso had disappeared entirely.

The photo also earned her her own “Flickr Moment” in which she explains how she shot this photo, where she draws her inspiration and why she loves this kind of surreal work:

Williams explains that the shoot itself was quite challenging because she was alone and had to keep getting back up to adjust focus after every shot, but the real fun began after the image was taken.

“The post production was really fun and that’s when the image really came together for me,” she says in the video. “It allowed to really play with the illusion and create the mood that I wanted… which is the feeling we all have of not being heard. Perhaps it stems from our youth, but I think it’s something we can all relate to.”

To learn more about Williams and this photo, be sure to check out the video above. And if you’d like to see more of her surreal work, head over to her Flickr stream or follow her on Facebook by following the corresponding links.

(via Flickr Blog)

Image credits: Photograph by Laura Williams and used with permission

  • Mr Hogwallop

    All due respect but most everything has been done. There is very rarely an original idea. However her work is different than the other people including Avedon who have done similar things. There is about .000004% originality in weddings, portraits, sports, advertisng photography. Sure the couples are different and the cars or players are different but most work is interchangeable.

  • BDWT

    Woot! Well said.

  • BDWT

    Laura, if you’re scrolling through these comments don’t let these people’s negative words get to you. Regardless of how good anything is (whatever it may be, a photo, a film, a piece of art or an opinion) the second you post it to the internet there will be people who love it and people who hate it, neither will be shy to voice themselves. That’s just how it is, people hide behind anonymity to say whatever they want just because they can get away with it without repercussions.

    I like your “viral” photo and your work, keep it up.

  • pgb0517

    I feel that way every time I go out with a camera … it’s been done.

  • pgb0517

    I guess I’m not as tuned in to these sorts of photos online, so to me, it looks reasonably fresh. What I like in how she did this was the particular placement of her hands and face. I think the composition around the frame of the mirror is compelling because of what you don’t see of her hands and face. Her expression has an enigmatic, pensive quality that I like, and the fact that her face is only partly visible lends an aura of mystery to her pose. It’s like she’s peaking out from behind some mysterious portal and tempting the viewer in. As a photographer who tries to sell art, I need to see things that give me a fresh take on things, and this accomplished that. So maybe this has been done, but I do like the way she did it. Good for her.

  • Toby Hawkins

    I’m fairly confident it’s a composite, since the background objects (marks on the lawn and tree) seem to line up perfectly, along with no fingertip or leg reflections. Even if that is the case though, I don’t think it diminishes the image.

  • Tzctplus -

    I like Opera, the musical art form, and when I go to an opera I don’t want to be presented with a musical.
    Both arts are very similar but anybody can appreciate that there are differences.

    It is the same with photography and other disciplines, you like modifying images to your heart’s content? Fine, nothing wrong with that, just don’t call yourself a photographer based on those works.

    When your medium of expression becomes photography then by all means call yourself a plotographer.

  • Watashiwa

    Nah, not even. It’s only photography if you’re using a pinhole camera ;)

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Yes but if you haven’t done it, your version will be different than everyone elses. So it’s still a new take on what maybe an old cliche.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    All due respect but I see very few “brilliant photographers” hanging around the interwebs. A few, and alot of very talented people but very very few flashes of brilliance. and if there is a flash of brilliance it will be shot down by the keyboard critics typing away in Starbucks before their shift…

  • Mr Hogwallop

    I don;t care what their work looks like (I don;t need to be a chef to know when something tastes like blech) but most of the negativity is just pointless griping or a pi&&ing match about who is the purest photographer….

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Good luck with that! Kick!

  • Mr Hogwallop

    The best Greek camera was the Argus C3. therefore any one not using an Argus is not a real pure and honest photographer.

  • Ashbrook

    It is better described as an illustration.

  • David Vaughn

    I agree that negativity and critique aren’t the same thing on an objective level, but they can be one and the same. Sometimes critiques are negative.

    I just see the attitude go from one end of self-righteous to the opposite end depending on the article.

    I mean, in my opinion, either offer a more positive argument, or just don’t respond. Complaining about people complaining just makes people complain about you complaining about them complaining.

    And yes, she’s 18, but I don’t think there’s a causal link between being older and being more capable or being younger and less capable, so I don’t see why being 18 should affect how people view her work. I mean, technically 18 is adult age isn’t it? After a certain point, I think people need to judge work on the merit of the actual work and not through lens of how old she is. ;)

  • Kaybee

    It is a Concept Photography or rather Art Photography…
    There are many disciplines of Psychology such as Child, Industrial, Environmental, Social, Clinical, Councelling, Criminal, Abnormal, Behaviour, Forensic, Paranormal, etc.
    “There are no pure subjects in this world so same goes for Photography”.
    People who are calling it not a Photography should really think out of the box and be more excepting of the Art form and creativity in general.
    Laura is an amazing and intelligent Photographer and artist. For her age, she has a sense of art and aesthetic, colour, mood, moments, concepts, surrealism, dramas, etc… so why bash her Art form. She is an intelligent girl or rather a good artist who knows how to combine different forms of Art. BTW, Photoshop is an Art too. Be a bit more accepting and smell the rose and paint it the colour you want!

  • Patrick Day

    I not sure if your trolling here or not but I will respond anyway

    What qualification do you, me, or anyone on here have to judge someone? This was article about girl that found something she enjoys and makes here happy.

    Also I made a very positive argument I thought ….feel free to critique all you want but I feel you better post you own work so we can see the person talent that doing the judging (funny all the negative people to date have not linked to there work yet).

  • Werchange

    For a site with international audience that’s not a lot of comments.
    Most of which appear to be a handful of “photographers” fussin’ amongst themselves. Thinly veiled envy of a young photographer does not make for a well balanced critique. That “it’s not photography if you have to photoshop” discussion is tiresome. Every amateur, enthusiast, professional has used the darkroom or photoshop to convey their “innermost feelings” of that particular slice of time that they had to capture and make into a memory.

    Keep up the good work Ms Williams-I think you’ll be around a lot longer than many of the posters here.

  • Alan

    This is a common argument between the new and the old photographers and it’s unlikely to be resolved soon. Some contend that if not printed using chemicals, the original intent or art was lost. Whether it was done all in camera or not seems to divide those who focus (pun intended) on the process or the final product. If it’s a competition, the rules should be clear – In Camera or other options allowed. To me, it’s the impact of the image that matters, but that’s just an opinion of mine; process people feel free to disagree, but I’m not going to buy in that one is always right/preferrable/more artitistic, etc. to the other.

  • Bill

    Jimmy Fartpants… I could see that is a reasoned view. Also as Jimmy Fartpants said, and I quote “80 percent of the quotes”. Jimmy Fartpants, thanks for the fascinating comments.

  • Kevin Connor

    Despite the negative comments, I really, really like her work. She’s talented, for sure.

  • Broseph of Arimathea

    ‘pointing your camera at something and taking a photo is more worthwhile than someone who plans and executes a concept and spends hours putting it together’.