Christy Lee Rogers is a visual artist from Kailua, Hawaii, currently based in America's Tennessee. Her elaborate, complex photographs are all shot underwater at night and it was this unusual approach that led to her success in this year's Sony World Photography Awards. Christy was awarded the 2019 Open Photographer of the Year title, where she not only receives $5,000 (USD) but ongoing support and global exposure from the World Photography Organisation.
Congratulations Christy for being awarded the 2019 Open Photographer of the Year award. Tell us, how do you feel?
I feel amazing! It's been a lot of work to get to this point and I feel very proud of this collection, Muses. I really want to thank the World Photography Organisation for helping bring my work out to a wider audience because photographers don’t often get that attention.
Your winning image Harmony is part of a larger body of work: Muses. How did this series come about?
The main inspiration for Muses is about the vulnerability and beauty of humanity, and seeing these two things come together. When you’re underwater you're really vulnerable and you’re breaking physical laws, like gravity. When you're underwater you’re weak, you can’t really think and you try to fight these forces. The shoot took about a year to produce and it's all shot in Hawaii. Muses is also about inspiration and how important it is to us as a human race. We need huge buildings like Somerset House, and photography competitions too, we have to be inspired by photography and art. This is so important and I think it’s not celebrated enough.
What was it about water that captures your imagination?
Water is everything, it’s so powerful. As soon as I started to experiment with water in my art everything changed and now I incorporate it as my main artistic source. Light travels at a different speed when underwater and you can play with refraction which results is a range of intriguing effects. That's how my images look so painterly.
Do you think Sony World Photography Awards celebrate particular innovative techniques of photography?
Yes, I really was surprised with a lot of the entries this year because people were pushing boundaries in photography and that’s really exciting. to me Photography is a medium that can be pushed in different directions, you can break the rules to create amazing images and stories.
Your image Harmony is very painterly, do any other art forms influence you?
Yes, absolutely, many art forms influence me including all types of music, poetry, movies, paintings, I do love the Renaissance period – I always find myself in that section in any museum I visit.
What have you learned about your photography by entering the Sony World Photography Awards?
The biggest realization I've had during this process is to see myself as a photographer. When I first started taking pictures, photography galleries would not accept my images because they thought they were too similar to paintings, but I wasn’t really accepted in the art world either. To be celebrated as a photographer is very big for me. I’m also introducing myself to a lot of other, amazing, artists here during the exhibition. I’ve had a chance to work with the World Photography Organisation in the past with the PHOTOFAIRS team in Shanghai. They're all just so professional and the way they present the work is just huge, amazing, beautiful.
Has anything exciting happened for your career since being affiliated with the competition?
Yes, actually in the last few months since all the press came out about winning the Open Motion category, people have been emailing me left, right and center about commissions. Someone actually wrote to me about collaborating on some sort of app. Since I've been associated with the Awards this I haven’t been able to stop answering all the emails!
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a video project. I haven’t really had time to focus on it – there’s been so much happening since the Sony World Photography Awards – so I’m excited to actually go back and start diving into the creative process. I’m working with a company in Los Angeles called Standard Vision and they do these huge videos projected onto buildings.
Why should people come and see the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition?
I’ve told a lot of people to come and see the exhibition because it's a wonderful opportunity to see photographers from all different countries and their varying perspectives on life.