Among those who call “underwater photography” their specialty, Christy Lee Rogers stands apart.
Instead of immersing herself in water, she instead follows its movement and that of models dreamily wading, by shooting from above. “I think what I do differently than most underwater photographers is that I am shooting from above the water and I’m using (the) refraction of lights,” the Nashville-based photographer and filmmaker told CNN. “So you get this sort of bending (effect).”
Rogers has taken more than 15 years to develop her technique, earning multiple accolades along the way, including the Sony World Photography Award for Open Photographer of the Year in 2019. The “otherworldly” quality of her work comes from constant experimentation.
“Riders of the Light” by Christy Lee Rogers Credit: Christy Lee Rogers
“It’s really not supposed to work,” she said of her technique’s unpredictable and varied results. “It’s like you’re pushing through these barriers and most of the photographs, they’re not usable.” But that’s part of the process, she adds. “It’s that pushing through, that creates the hope and the beauty in the end.”
Originally from Kailua, Hawaii, Rogers became fascinated by water at a young age. “I love that water has a memory to it, it remembers the past. It’s this life force that we need to survive,” she said.
When the coronavirus hit earlier this year, Rogers had already shot her latest series, later naming it “Human” during the post-production process, to embody strength during the pandemic.
“Venus is Rising” by Christy Lee Rogers Credit: Christy Lee Rogers
One of the images, “Riders of the Light,” imagines three angels rising up and “looking down on humanity.” Seen in the context of the pandemic, she said, “sometimes (we) need the darkness to see the light.” She plans to donate the work to Mount Sinai Hospital Intensive Care Unit in New York City. Proceeds from another photo in the series, “Venus Rising,” have been donated to charity.
“The message behind all of my work has been freedom, and hope and persisting through vulnerabilities,” she said.
“So for me the work is always about humanity.”