James Cameron & Disney commissioned an underwater shoot of the AVATAR stars by Christy Lee Rogers to raise money for The Nature Conservancy. christyleerogers.com/avatar

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James Cameron & Disney commissioned an underwater shoot of the AVATAR stars by Christy Lee Rogers to raise money for The Nature Conservancy.

Christy Lee Rogers is an American artist who works in the medium of underwater photography, breaking its usual conventions by shooting from above the water – the distortion of the surface producing a painterly effect which has led to her photographic works being compared to paintings from the 15th Century. Christy beat 224,000 entries to win the Sony World Open Photography Award, which led to commissions from Apple and for the cover of the Lavazza calendar and most recently for the multi-Oscar winning director James Cameron to commission her to shoot the stars of Avatar: The Way of Water – Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet, to raise money for The Nature Conservancy to clean the oceans.

James Cameron, who is known not only as the director of three of the five highest grossing films of all time, but also for his love of deep sea adventuring (he was the first man to ever travel 10,908 meters down in the Pacific), science (he invented a camera lens used on Mars by NASA) and for his environmental conservation work. James’ wife, Suzy Cameron, owns a school in California, where they serve a fully plant based diet and teach the children based on their specific interests – the school is called Muses, which is the title of a series that Christy was working on at the time James heard of her work, and the first artwork he bought from Christy was from her Muses series as a gift for Suzy.

After collecting her art and speaking on the phone, Christy and her agent, London based art dealer Fraser Scott, who had first introduced her to Cameron, suggested to him that Christy shoot the stars of Avatar to raise money for ocean conservation, using a promotional system that Fraser had previously used with bands like Coldplay and The Backstreet Boys where he’d sold $2M of their album art for children’s charities. James Cameron immediately agreed to the idea and connected Christy and Fraser to Jon Landau, the Oscar Winning Producer of Titanic and Avatar, who in turn connected them with the teams at Disney to arrange the shoot.

Disney paid for the shoot, which involved flying Christy and Fraser to England where the overall producer Alex Lake had connected them to the producer Matt Brown Films to help Christy shoot Oscar Winner Kate Winslet, and then to LA where TXL Films facilitated the shoot at the famous Biltmore Hotel, to shoot Sigourney Weaver who had flown in from New York and Zoe Saldaña, the only woman to have ever starred in 3, $2B films. Incidentally, The Biltmore was the hotel in many iconic scenes that Sigourney Weaver had shot for her role in Ghostbusters.

Christy had prepared for the shoot for months, discussing the concept with James Cameron, who gave her creative freedom, then designing and commissioning the costumes, lighting and the overall plan for the feel of the shoot. The actresses had many months of underwater training and practice while shooting Avatar: The Way of Water, but Christy still had to brief and train them on her very special method, which involves lying or dancing flat at the bottom of the pool. Disney also flew in Kirk Krack, the diving specialist who trained the actresses for Avatar and who was responsible for Kate Winslet famously holding her breath underwater for over 7 minutes and fifteen seconds, beating Tom Cruise’s previous record (Kirk Krack also trained Cruise for Mission Impossible).

After the training of the superstars had concluded, Christy photographed each of them underwater for around 3 – 4 hours, playing soothing, Avatar themed music and directing them via an underwater speaker. She had a team of people who she guided to shine spot lights in ever changing motions on the stars, alternating from lighting their faces to their bodies, while another team floated in fabrics towards the actresses and Kirk helped them to maintain their breathing and ability to stay close to the pool’s floor. Christy’s communications to the actresses was along the lines of the feeling of the shoot – peaceful, serenity and then action and dance – it was like an underwater ballet, with each award-winning actress taking to it effortlessly and with their own deeply artistic expression. Zoe Saldaña is a highly trained dancer and it was her acrobatic ability that helped her land the first Avatar role and that natural bent towards dance truly shone in the performances.

After the shoot was complete, Christy spent months doing post-production, while Fraser Scott was introduced by Jon Landau and the teams at Disney to the executives at The Nature Conservancy (TNC – www.nature.org), the charity that Jon and James Cameron had selected with Disney for their philanthropic efforts, including the shoot by Christy to support. The reason they selected TNC for their major project – Keep Our Oceans Amazing – was because of their work and goal to clean the oceans. TNC’s goal is to conserve 10% (4 billion hectares (9.9 billion acres)) of the world’s ocean by 2030, and specifically Avatar and Disney’s goal with TNC is to protect 10 of our ocean’s amazing animals and their habitats, connected to the beauty of Pandora.

Fraser worked out a plan with TNC, based on his work with Coldplay and Backstreet Boys, where a limited edition of each of Christy’s artworks, which James Cameron titled The Muses of Avatar, would be sold with 100% of net proceeds going to the efforts to clean the ocean. The artworks were divided into limited editions of 10 on acrylic at 58.5 x 72 Inches (149 x 183 cm) and in various editions and sizes as museum quality prints, and finally, so they are available to all Avatar fans, as art-posters at 13 x 16 Inches (33 x 41 cm).

James Cameron said: “I have long admired Christy’s art and began collecting her works several years ago. Her unique style of shooting her subjects underwater naturally inspired me to suggest she do a special shoot with our cast.”

Jon Landau said: “Offering these unique pieces of art to benefit The Nature Conservancy through the “Avatar: The Way of Water’s” ‘Keep Our Oceans Amazing’ campaign is a perfect synergy, and we were excited to collaborate with Christy,”

Christy Lee Rogers said: “Water is healing – it’s life itself. And as the provider of life – oxygen to all through tiny phytoplankton, our oceans need our care more than ever right now. It is a great honor to be able to help James Cameron, Jon Landau, and the ‘Avatar’ and Disney teams in realizing that dream of clean and protected world oceans – through the release of these images for The Nature Conservancy.”

Melissa Garvey, Global Director of Ocean Protection at The Nature Conservancy said: “Healthy oceans are vital to the health of the planet and all living things, including people. Oceans are 90% of the habitable planet and home to more than half of all life on earth; they provide livelihoods for billions of people, produce the food we eat and half the air we breathe. Through the work of Christy Lee Rogers and the support of Disney and Avatar, we can shape a brighter future where people and nature can thrive—ensuring healthier oceans for all.”

The artworks were launched on March the 8th, International Women’s Day, as available to purchase via www.christyleerogers.com/avatar and can be seen at www.instagram.com/christyleerogers

Copyright © 2024 Christy Lee Rogers, All rights reserved.

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