The Undewater Artist | An Interview with Christy Lee Rogers

The variables in photography can be difficult to manage. Whether it’s lighting, a subject or composition, the capricious nature of photography is the essence of its beauty. However, underwater photographer, Christy Lee Rogers, works with one of nature’s most unpredictable elements as she shoots: water. Inspired by the idyllic, crystal waters of her native Hawaii, Rogers has drawn on the element’s innate healing properties and its ability to defy photographic conventions in her work, leading her to work with corporate giants such as Apple and Lavazza.

By submerging her subject (a regular person, not a model) in a pool, Roger’s experiments with vivid hues of texture, kaleidoscopes of ethereal lighting and simplistic models, create narrative displays of the human experience. 

“It’s raw, there’s a lot of mistakes in it. The people I capture are not models, they’re just everyday people that I teach how to do the process… Obviously, they know how to swim, but maybe they’ve never been photographed. I like that they’re real. They’re not posing for me; it’s important for the expression… I don’t give them too much information before they show up, because I don’t want them to overthink it. I want to see all the mistakes because sometimes they’re the most beautiful parts.”

Christy Lee Rogers

Behind the scenes with Christy Lee Rogers

Originally beginning her creative endeavours as a poet, Rogers has always been fascinated by philosophy, mythology. and humanity. She continued: “I love these things that question our human nature. I realised I wanted to say things and express something that I couldn’t say with words.”

Rogers also discussed her relationship with water. Harkening back to her childhood in Hawaii, the element provided her with a space for sanctuary and spiritual cleansing.

“I was always very drawn to the water; it was always very healing to me.”

“On my first shoot when we jumped in the pool, I saw how magical it was. It’s not like shooting in reality, it’s very different.”

Christy Lee Rogers

Along with incorporating texture, props and more people, Rogers has also developed her use of chiaroscuro throughout her career, resulting in several critics likening her work to the Baroque masters: Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Rubens. She followed: “Caravaggio’s work is very dark, and I’ve always tried to keep my work very positive because I could go to the dark side. But I always try and keep it light, because at the end it’s the hope and the freedom that wins over all the darkness.”

Rogers began experimenting with film and infrared photography at High School, age 13, her only lessons in the art to date. Becoming enamoured with capturing moments in time, Rogers continued maturing her photographic skills, taking pictures of just about anything she could.

The last decade has seen huge success for Rogers, with companies such as Apple and Lavazza commissioning work from her. Although her astounding critical reception has proved an element of universal truth in the work, her collection’s equivocal complexion and indistinguishable forms speak to each individual on a personal level. 

“There’s nothing perfect about that image. But what I say is, that’s us, that’s humanity.”

Christy Lee Rogers

She also discussed the difficulties in explaining the thought process behind her work’s execution: “Artists are creating work from the depths of who we are. It’s not very contrived, but it’s this expression that just comes out of you naturally and it’s hard to explain it in words.”

Talking with Christy Lee Rogers was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Her dedication to delicacy, her eye for the imperfections of human nature and her ability to compact these into a series of images underwater left me, like many other viewers of her work, speechless. Rogers’ accomplishments and experimentations have earned her a growing fanbase since debuting her work in 2010. After ten years of working privately on her art, her questioning of life, humanity, philosophy and society has produced an emotional reaction from viewers worldwide. 

Written by Simone Harrison | Video Edited by Gregory Segal

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