To the untrained eye, Christy Lee Roger’s Baroque-esque images of models mingling in fabrics may appear to be the work of fine brush strokes of oil paint. In reality, Rogers is a sorceress of light, using the power of refraction to paint these modern-day masterpieces.
Shooting above water straight down into a darkened pool, the light from halogen lamps is slightly slowed when it hits the surface, transforming the movement of the models and fabrics into brilliant brush strokes. “I feel like a magician, except I’m not trying to trick or fool people but to open their minds to something that’s not always visible to the eye,” says Rogers.
Recently, Rogers gave DPG an inside look into two of her latest series, “Reckless Unbound” and “Odyssey.”
Inspired by Water
I grew up on an island, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, with lots of rainfall, waterfalls and canals; so I was a little spoiled with the beauty of water. Water is life-giving. It’s purifying, tranquil and it can be powerful, mysterious and even dangerous when mixed with other forces. But I love water mostly because it generates and sustains life.
Being underwater shuts off the excessive thought processes that we all have going on in our heads, which is wonderful because it allows one to really be oneself completely.
There are also forces that are working against the body, creating a battle for one to exist down below. But the one force that we get a break from is gravity. Can you imagine the possibilities of the body existing without gravity? And so we get to play with these possibilities while immersed underwater.
Planning a Shoot
I like for the process to be raw and not over-planned. When there starts to be too many expectations, then it’s time for me to let go. Over the years I keep notebooks of ideas, inspirations, color schemes, words, feelings and drawings.
Then from there I decide on what concept direction to go in, while scouring the streets, thrift shops, forests and beaches for props and fabrics. At the same time I’m looking for subjects, searching for pools and spending a lot of time driving around with my notebooks.
There’s a lot of visualization happening here—pieces of pictures in my head. This period is usually difficult for me because the vision is in small pieces dispersed everywhere and doesn’t fully come to fruition until the night of the shoot or months after it.
And then my final designing of the vision is created experimentally between my subjects and I as the shoot is progressing. I work by myself and with no crew, starting at sundown and shooting as long as is physically possible for both my subjects and myself.
“Reckless Unbound” was shot on the island of Oahu in swimming pools during the night. Working with six models and hundreds of fabrics, masks and props, I’d lay out the initial ideas in notebooks beforehand, choosing color sequences, emotions, movements and themes.
Then, shooting alone with my subjects, I’d start by teaching each person how to move within the water, and then from there, we’d experiment and make mistakes, and find our way through to the end. There’s no way to truly predict what kind of interactions will occur, so I make sure that I’m well rested and fed, because every decision I’ll have to make is live and needs to happen fast and by instinct.
Life inspires me to create: the beauty in it, the tragedy of it, the mysteries of the universe and the emotions that no words can describe. I also feel like I have a duty as an artist to bring some beauty back into the world and to inspire others.
Creating my art feels a bit like breathing or communicating; like something you do by instinct. And when things start to get too hectic on the business side of the art, I disconnect and throw myself straight into a new creation.
My first test shoots were done on myself, where I realized that as much as you tried to think “do this, do that,” it would all disappear when you dunked your head down below the surface. What a great place to be though—away from the logical think tank of society.
And that is a great place to start building a new reality.