Photographer Christy Lee Rogers creates wondrous underwater scenes of utter beauty, where seemingly choreographed entanglements of bodies and drapes weightlessly float in a muffled yet lush universe that brims with unbounded sensual energies.
For the sensual rendering of the fleshes, the bright coalescing colours and the dramatic lighting, Rogers’ work has often been compared to Baroque painting. Similarly to the pursuit of the marvellous typical of Baroque art, her images excite the senses and arouse a pervasive feeling of awe and wonder in the viewer. But each work also elicits feelings that can be assimilated to sublime, romantically intended as that ungraspable mixture of high pleasure and deep fear we feel in front of something majestic.
Notwithstanding the above mentioned comparisons concerning the magnificent results, Christy Lee Rogers is endowed with an original and rare talent that made her develop a unique way of expressing universal and timeless feelings by means of breaking with the conventions of her medium of choice and by obsessively experimenting with underwater photography. A self-taught photographer born in Hawaii, Christy Lee Rogers has always had a special relationship with water. But it wasn’t until eleven years ago – when one night, almost by chance, she started taking pictures of a friend jumped on a swimming pool – that the first inspiration hit her. As she told me when I interviewed her for Elephant magazine, that day her creative adventure had started and since then she has relentlessly experimented with the expressive possibilities that a camera, some models, a swimming pool and the moon light opened up to her. Water is an unpredictable element and during a shooting session many adverse events can occur. The night light can suddenly change. The wind can blow and ruffle the water. Although there is a lot of preparation involved in the process (from sketching down ideas to finding the right props and rehearsing with the models), Rogers‘ art is the outcome of a delicately perfect balance between planning in detail and being ready to make the best out of the many unpredictable aspects of shooting at night what happens underwater. Outside of a swimming pool she combines the two apparently opposite aspects of the process and always manages to magically transform her rough materials into visually lush explosions of dramatic energy.
Thanks to a first-rate artistic awareness and an outstanding craftsmanship (enthusiastically pursued with years of practice, trials and errors), Christy Lee Rogers has invented a totally new and original photographic language, where no digital trickery is either needed or wanted to deliver the (im)perfect beauty of life.
Water is commonly perceived as a positive symbol standing for the origin of life but at the same time it evokes the impossibility of breathing in it. Experiencing the underwater space can be beautifully soothing but also mysteriously dangerous, thus being a perfect metaphor for the contradictions of life and the opposite poles (good and bad) around which human existence revolves. Rogers‘ bodies are captured with such a degree of barely contained tension that it makes difficult to decide whether they are joyously realising their sensual energies or rather trying to free themselves from unknowable dark forces holding them down. They are imbued by the same vibrant tension exhaled by Michelangelo’s Slaves in their attempt to free themselves from the dead stone. Stone for Michelangelo and water for Rogers, the materials could hardly be more different. But the Renaissance master and this contemporary master of photography share a deep and compassionate insight into human nature.
There is art you can enjoy, art that shocks you, art that you can rationally understand, art that you can appreciate for the technical mastery it displays and art that you simply find pleasant. But then there is a special kind of art that has something so self-sufficiently magic that you are totally bewitched by it. As an artist, Christy Lee Rogers is a benign witch casting a visual spell the secret ingredients of which are her original intuition, her refined craftsmanship, her artistic instinct and her deep understanding of human nature, all blending together in a flawless universe of sensual and vivid beauty.
To have an insight into the process behind Christy Lee Rogers’ underwater photography, see this behind-the-scenes video:
To plunge completely into her underwater universe visit her website, here
Thank you to Christy Lee Rogers for the images and for her incredibly inspiring art.