Words Edel Cassidy
Photographer and visual artist Christy Lee Rogers produces large-scale images of cascading figures swathed in colourful fabrics. To produce these images she photographs clusters of bodies submerged in illuminated water at night, and creates her effects by using refraction of light. Through a process of careful experimentation, she builds elaborate scenes of coalesced colours and entangled bodies that exalt the human figure.
Mastering the technique of taking good photographs underwater requires a particular set of skills and knowledge. Underwater shots can be stunning, but they are also difficult to pull off since water, 800 times more dense than air, totally changes the way light and colour appear in a photograph.
Underwater photographs, therefore, tend to contain a lot less colour and contrast than those taken in air unless adjustments are made. This is not because the colour of submerged objects fade or change, but because of the diffusion, diffraction and absorption of light in water.
Christy has been playing with water and refracted light in her photographs for years; it’s a style she has refined and mastered. Being from Hawaii, she has a natural affinity with water, and feels that there is something magical about being in it, like stepping out of reality where everything starts to blur and blend. But capturing images in this environment is another matter. It took ten years of pushing boundaries, and bending and breaking the rules of photography to achieve her desired results.
She shoots while out of the water but with her subjects underwater. She has found that this achieves a special effect because light travels more slowly in water than it does in air and it produces a wonderful bending and refraction of light in the two different mediums. She realised she could get a painterly quality with her camera if she set it exactly right, put the light exactly where it needed to be and if the models moved in a particular way. Even if the lighting is fractionally off, the image won’t work; when the light is set correctly, the colours really pop. Generally she just works by instinct. She knows what will work, even though her camera often tells her the light is not correct.