In conversation with Christy Lee Rogers, one of the most dynamic photographers working today
Christy Lee Rogers speaks to us about escape plans, shooting underwater, and Avatar director James Cameron….
TELL US ABOUT YOUR COLLABORATION WITH LAVAZZA FOR THE 2021 CALENDAR, AND HOW THAT CAME ABOUT?
Lavazza approached me about this concept of “The New Humanity” and what that meant to me as an artist. I was inspired by their determination to spread hope during this tumultuous time, as that is desperately needed right now. We had this perception of a new modern Renaissance and how to help create this. That was the starting point; and I didn’t know what the other 12 artists were creating, so from there I dug deep into this concept and what I wanted to give to the world in the form of an image.
YOU ARE KNOWN FOR YOUR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY, AND FOR USING WATER AS AN ARTISTIC SOURCE – BUT WHAT FIRST DREW YOU TO USING THIS MEDIUM IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I’m in love with water in every way. It’s life and peace to me. With water, it’s as though you have a blank canvas to photograph on. Nothing is as it seems with water, and as the light moves over many of its layers, we get to experience a breathtaking magic. For me, it was like finding the fountain of youth, except this is the fountain of creativity. Water is also uncontrollable in a great way. It has a life of its own, and it’s this untamed force that I love to experiment with to sculpt my shots. This is what fascinates me the most; this dance with the elements of the earth and how when we stop resisting that force – we find freedom within ourselves. I love that this correlates to the human condition and our common experience.
WITH YOUR RECENT PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES, HYBRIDS, YOU INCORPORATED FLOWERS INTO YOUR WORK – WAS THIS BREAKING NEW GROUND FOR YOU, IN SOME WAYS?
Yes! The flowers represented eternal beauty. In Spring, we see new blooms, whereas we’re not so sad when the flowers disappear in Winter, because we know they’ll be back in all their beauty and glory. This was at the core of that collection and I wanted the flowers to be extensions of the bodies, as if one.
HOW HAS YOUR STYLE EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
There has been a transformation in myself through each year, which translates over to my style. Starting out with simplicity of colours and form, and building to more elaborate scenes and technology. I’m searching for my own freedom and taking you along for the journey in these images. It’s hard to say what that evolution is exactly; it’s how I see the world from day to day, year to year.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES OF WORKING UNDERWATER?
One of the biggest challenges is controlling elements in water. Everything is more difficult in this environment. In a way, it’s exciting because it feels like we’re breaking the rules of the physical universe and what’s possible with a camera and light. I actually don’t think these images are supposed to be possible. Every time I shoot I think it’ll be my last, because I don’t know if I’ll be able to capture it again. Everything I’m doing feels like it’s against the material laws of this world. And although difficult, water is really the only way to realize it.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST AMBITIOUS PROJECT TO DATE, AND WHY?
Every new project feels like I’m climbing some new unclimbable mountain, mostly because I’m never satisfied! But I would say shooting a commission for Apple with their iPhone 11Pro, while being filmed. Because we were on such a tight schedule, the phone arrived the day before the shoot, and I had to be quick to learn a new technology and adapt it to fit my style.
IF THERE WAS A FIRE AND YOU COULD ONLY SAVE ONE PHOTOGRAPH, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
I have my image “Harmony” printed on acrylic, framed in gold and in my living room. If anything ever happened to it, I’d be devastated. Although it’s huge, so I’d have to have a good plan to get it out!
WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS – BOTH THEN AS WELL AS NOW?
There are so many along this journey I’ve been on. I hope I can call him a mentor, but James Cameron and I spoke at length about the difficulties of shooting underwater. This was after his Avatar 2 filming, which was partly filmed underwater. Neither of us use tanks, so I learned so much from him on how to achieve a long performance by just holding your breath. Before then, I didn’t think it was possible. He’s been a great inspiration to me in many ways.
WHAT’S ON YOUR WISH LIST FOR THE COMING YEAR, BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?
There’s an indoor pool that I’m designing, fitted with catwalks, special lights, automatic backdrops and warm saline water. Professionally and personally, that is all my heart desires. With this extraordinary pool, I will be shooting every day; no planning, just feeling it. A dream come true for me!
FINALLY, THE ONE QUESTION WE ASK EVERYONE! WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE LUXURY?
Old Baroque architecture with modern accents…. and art.
For more information about Christy and her work, go to www.christyleerogers.com.