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

  • Daire

    does she maintain that it was all done in camera? It would have been more worthwhile had it been I think, but as it stands it’s just a photoshop hack job.

  • Patrick Day

    Did you even read the article of just come here to be negative?

    She said “post production was really fun and that’s when the image really came together for me”

  • Tim Schaefer

    Oh, shutup. The same old negativity is tiresome.

    I enjoyed the photo for what it is.

  • Daire

    I read it, I didn’t watch the video. ‘post production’ encompasses a lot of things.

  • AbinSur

    Read much?

  • Patrick Day

    Does it matter really she never said right out camera. 99% of photos have some post production to it

  • truth hurts

    And here I was thinking “photography” meant using a tool to capture light in a certain way in order to create an image.

    Silly me.

    Beautiful image? Sure it is!

    Everyone just needs to stop calling things like this Photography. Maybe “image manipulation” or whatever.

  • Daire

    that’s very true, I postprocess my own shots. There’s a fundamental difference between levelling, colour correction, cropping etc etc and completely altering the fundamental image by inserting or removing elements or compositing several images into one.

  • Daire

    unless you spent an entire minute or more coming up with that gem I could ask you the same question.

  • mthouston

    “photoshop hack job” hows that?

  • Patrick Day

    This site should have new rule if you going to be negative you need to post to your own work so everyone can judge that person.

  • mthouston

    It’s photography.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    It’s only “photography” if you shoot in JPG mode, and have perfect results right out of the camera. Ok, got it.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    The comment section on this site just ruins it for me.
    I’d say that at least 80% of the comments here are written by complete & total morons.

  • Daire

    says “Jimmy Fartpants” :-D

  • roseskunk

    Just as soon as I saw the image, I thought, “Hmmm, wonder how negative the comments will get on this one?” Thanks for not disappointing me, Daire. BTW, how ’bout we see your work?

  • Ed Rhodes

    attitudes like that turn people off of photography. I think it is great that she has found something that she enjoys and challenges her creativity.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    I hardly even read the articles anymore. Just go straight to the comments to read the pissing, whining, complaining, and jealous bitching. It’s a shame this community has become so negative & uninspiring.

  • pgb0517

    Sigh. The drumbeat of negativism every time someone does more to an image than just let the camera make all the artistic decisions is soooo … boring. You people are like wine snobs, or boors who correct other people’s grammar in a dinner-table discussion, or … I dunno, something else that is obnoxious to people of good will. Just fill in the blank.

    Please, stop it, will you, just stop your incessant blathering, and let the rest of us enjoy the art?

  • Landa

    Well on fuji cameras you must do photoshop because raws are soooo flat and ugly!!

  • Daire

    There’s a simple solution for you. See if you scroll down a bit and there’s a little picture of you beside the words ‘Join the discusson…’ ?? Don’t scroll any furthere. There you go, problem solved.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    Quality commentary speaks louder than a a dumbass internet handle.
    I don’t care if you’re name here is “Sh*thead Mcgee”, if you offer something to the community, i’ll listen and take you seriously.

  • pgb0517

    I keep hoping that the discussion will get better. Kick me.

  • Paul Waring

    Get your gear out and shoot. Inspires me to something simular.

  • C.K. Lee

    That would be a great rule for most sites…

  • C.K. Lee

    I liked it. Great image.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    See here’s how you’re wrong. A lot of people enjoy discussion with others in order to learn & improve their own work. That’s what these types of sites should be about. Maybe more “How did she do that?” and “lets talk about it” , and less “This sucks, it’s not photography, what a hack!” would go a long way to improve everybodies experience.

    But instead it’s been dominated by trolls or (in my opinion) wannabee professionals who feel threatened by seeing others succeed. So they tear down their work as some kind of means to make themselves feel better about their own mediocrity or lack of success. Hell, just last week some guy was bitching about the DIY and tutorial videos in here, because he thought it was stupid to give away your secrets. As if this is some sort of magic trick. I think that points directly to professional jealousy or fear of competition.

  • Chuck F

    Don’t bother to respond to Daire. He is just a troll. Just go to his profile and see that most of his comments are negative. He is an unfortunate soul.

  • battlepriest

    This happens more and more – someone posts an article declaring this or that a “viral sensation” – and yet it inevitably turns out to be something I’ve never seen or heard of. Picking up a bullhorn and shouting “someone else over there is shouting – let’s all go listen” is just…….odd.

  • 3e423432

    bokeh looks fake….

  • Mike

    Where all you shallow sheep see “negativity” and “haters”, I see fair remarks and critics. We can’t evolve with hugs and kisses alone, can we?

  • Mike

    If you’re going to be uselessly “positive” then you should be just banned.

  • Mike

    Friggin’ ego boost spammers

  • brob

    I’m not trying to be negative quite honestly. However, this concept is not new. It’s been done a hundred million times, and you can find a ton of them on flickr. Look at her flickr stream. She has only posted under 200 photos. And the majority of them are concepts that have been done on flickr by hundreds of teenage girls.

    She was lucky enough to have someone post it to the right website for it to get the attention it did. And sorry to have to say it, but she’s an attractive young female. There’s your equation for the attention.

    Does she have some skill, yes. Has she been proven herself as a briliiant photographer!? hardly.

    Faves, comments and likes on facebook and flickr doesn’t mean anything.

  • Marcus

    I’m trying so hard here not to be negative. Yes, the photo looks nice but its far from original or unique. Plenty of fashion adverts have used this technique, hell even Avedon experimented with it. I think this just goes to show the power of marketing, over the power of content.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Yes it’s different and your way is no better or worse than hers in creating an image. I’d guess Jerry Uelsmann would be considered a “darkroom hack” in your world? Why should everyone follow your “rules”.

  • harumph

    It’s good, but the “viral photo” life cycle is accelerated to the point of ridiculousness these days. It was only a few months ago that Barbara Scerbo’s very similar series went viral.

    I expect in another month or two we’ll see it again.

  • Patrick Day

    Where does it say she considers herself brillant photographer?

    Stand by my statemented above fell free to post you work then we can all have at and rip it apart.

  • Patrick Day

    I see a bunch of bitter photographers who leave negative comments but not brave enough to post there own work. I guess we all see what we want.

  • Patrick Day

    You are the wrong site i think lol. Not sure you allowed to like anything on here.

  • David Vaughn

    I like the image. I’m not going to negative toward this image/article specifically, BUT…

    …Is it fair to have uninspiring comments when the accompanying article in uninspiring?

    I’m just asking because there is an odd kind of group-mentality thinking on many of these articles.

    IE: One article about a young surrealist photography gets a lot of negative comments and all the negative comments are upvoted or agreed with. Another article about a young surrealist photography gets a lot of negative comments and suddenly everybody is sick of the negativity.

    I get confused about whether negativity is something to be praised or if negative people are loser jealous hater assholes.

  • David Vaughn

    As much as I agree that there seems to be a lot of negativity in general in these comment sections,I don’t really see how you adding your own negativity helps the situation that you hate so much.

    And are you referring to people criticizing in general as being jealous trolls, or just people who say “lame, next.”

    Because the word troll seems to have become something of a term used to describe anyone who disagrees with a popular opinion, regardless of the content of their argument.

    Trolls do exist, and there are a few in here, but generally I see their comments at the bottom of the heap because most everyone knows not to take them seriously.

  • C.K. Lee

    I like lots here despite the trolls & negativity in the comments, most of which seems driven by jealousy and insecurity.

    Hard not to feel sorry for them – but hey, y’know, there’s a lot better stuff out there to spend time on than being negative :)

  • C.K. Lee

    To be fair… not all. But he could have framed his disagreement better.

  • Patrick Day

    Agreed the site is great. I just hate seeing people tare someone down especially if they are not there to defend themselves.

  • Patrick Day

    My issue is most of “negative” people (like daire, truth hurts, brob) hide behind the internet. Post with your real name standby what you write.

    Also phrases like…photoshop hack job, image manipulation, seen this all before… I do not really see that bringing anything to the conversation.

    Critique and being negative are not the same thing.

    Also the girl only 18 people need to remember that.

  • Patrick Mc Donnell

    Nothing is complete ‘in camera’. As highly regarded a source as Ansel Adams said “The negative is like a music score, the print is the performance”. In digital terms the RAW file is the score, the processed image is the performance.
    JPG images are just machine processed, an abdication of responsibility unless you’re a pro shooter a tight deadline.
    If you can do better with a full frame camera and 50mm lens, or a crop sensor and 35mm lens, then please post. If you wonder why the restriction it’s because the choice of camera format, lens etc are all decisions that influence the look of the final image, just like the post processing choices and editing which some people believe lessens the value of the final image.

  • AdminHarald

    I’m with you Fartpants. Put the Comments at the top and articles at the bottom!

  • JSintheStates

    Wonderful and inspired work! Please keep it up; you have a future as a photographer! (And you are being noticed, and appreciated, which I’m sure is gratifying and validating! Ignore the nay-sayers and trolls; be true to yourself!)

  • Broseph of Arimathea


    Seriously, just don’t.