"People love to pick apart my images and I don't really mind when they do that, but they have to see what the project is too," says Bruno. "Even if it's not perfect, it's still a representation of my internal struggle."
At first Bruno thought he was possessed, and explanations for his condition still trouble him. "I know it's all in my head, but it's hard not to delve into the world of spiritual explanation," he says. "The cool part is to look at it from both perspectives. You can see them literally for what they are, or you can create the symbolism to express what they could mean."
Surreal humor is one of the weapons Bruno brings to combat his dreams. "The dreams are terrifying, but they can be comical sometimes. Say I've already had a dream, I'll go back to sleep and exactly the same thing will happen again. I'll poke fun at it. It's not always the most terrifying thing."
"Once I feel comfortable with what I want to express in a single image, I'll go out location scouting," says Bruno. He shoots most of his images around his home of Northport, New York, which is geographically diverse enough to furnish him with woods, marshlands and beaches.
Bruno uses fire to represent a panicked awakening from his dreams. "Have you ever been totally startled by something, or realized something, and had that tingling burst of energy in your chest? It's that burst of anxiety. I try to express flame as being that exact moment."
The bowler-hatted, besuited characters may evoke surrealist René Magritte, but the formal wear was also born out a way to depict Bruno's faceless figures. "When I was creating those works, I was looking at Magritte, but I was also trying to portray these figures as best as possible without just taking pictures of black blobs floating across the scene," explains Bruno.
"I can't figure out why things are happening, where these characters are coming from, who's trying to contact me," says Bruno. But his art allows him to communicate his experiences with other suffers of sleep paralysis.
Bruno's photos make frequent use of a dark, cloying water. "When you're lying on your back [in sleep paralysis] you can't really breathe. The water is like trying to emerge from that -- you barely have your head or your arms just out of the dream, but you're still swamped by it," says Bruno.
Having lived with the condition for many years, Bruno is able to bring his own influence to bear on his condition. "The dreams do become repetitive sometimes, with recurring characters. As I get older and I experience them time over time, I'm able to learn more about them, twist and turn things."
Bruno brings a dark, oil painting aesthetic to much of his work. "I'm very interested in 19th century art," he explains. "A time when artists rebelled against making clean, classical stuff and made their own types of weird, chaotic stuff."
The photographer's process is mostly a solitary activity: He largely shoots alone, with just a camera, tripod and remote trigger. He even models most of his own shots. "I'm jumping into a swamp with a big ladder -- I'm not going to make my friends do that!"
Bruno's masked figures come from both representation and necessity. "I can never pick out any sort of facial expression. The only thing I'll maybe see is a gaped open mouth," says Bruno. "The masked figures express how they don't have faces, resonate with the act of being choked or suffocated by the dream itself -- and it allows me to be in the photograph multiple times."
"It's really about the low-budget," says Bruno. He makes his own props or gets them for free from Craigslist, and works with natural light instead of lighting equipment. "You don't need thousands of dollars of props or equipment or models. And you definitely don't need expensive equipment to make stunning images," he tells CNN.
In REM sleep, our bodies paralyze themselves to ensure that we don't act out our dreams -- but in Bruno's case, his mind is awake and conjuring up vivid, macabre hallucinations. "For people who haven't experienced it, and say they want to -- they really don't," Bruno tells CNN.
Bruno says that he doesn't watch horror movies for the thrills -- "I'm not very easily scared anymore." But he watches them because "people creating horror movies are doing it for the same reasons as I am: They're expressing their fears."
Bruno says that being the model in his own images reflects the struggle of his dreams themselves, but also allows him to control over the images. "When I'm in the water with a linen mask over my face, I feel like I'm suffocating. But once have that image, I feel so much better about having something tangible to show everybody: 'Hey, this is what I'm experiencing.'"
"It's a great experiment, to take things from your own head that you've experienced, to take something terrible and turn it into something tangible," he says.
"Boom, you just woke up and what's going on? Or boom, you just woke up and your house is on fire. It's that quick anxiety," Bruno explains. "The most recent image that I shot, I burned a doll house. It's me trying to extinguish the immediate effect of what's going on."