$10m+ Avatar-star photos dedicated to ocean protection

Muses of Avatar - Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet (Christy Lee Rogers)
Muses of Avatar - Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet (Christy Lee Rogers)

Renowned underwater photographer Christy Lee Rogers has created a collection of limited-edition photographs in her distinctive style based on last year’s Avatar: The Way of Water, which has become the third-highest-grossing movie of all time.

She was commissioned by the film’s director and writer James Cameron, a collector of her work, and the Disney studio, in the hope that the artworks will raise millions of dollars to help protect the oceans.

Featuring three of the film’s female stars, the photo series is entitled Muses Of Avatar: Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver And Kate Winslet. 

100% of the net proceeds from sales has been earmarked for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to protect 10 marine species and their habitats, ranging from beluga and blue whales, manatees and sea-lions through hawksbill turtles, parrotfish, mangroves and staghorn coral to manta rays and whale sharks. 

Muses of Avatar - Zoe Saldaña
Muses of Avatar – Zoe Saldaña (Christy Lee Rogers)

Disney and Cameron’s Avatar series launched their global “Keep Our Oceans Amazing” campaign shortly before the second Avatar movie’s release to raise awareness of the challenges that oceans and marine life face, and to support The Nature Conservancy.

Like other ocean-conservation bodies, TNC’s objective is to help protect 10% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

“Water is healing – it’s life itself,” says Rogers. “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 honour to be able to help James Cameron, [producer] Jon Landau and the Avatar and Disney teams in realising that dream of clean and protected world oceans – through the release of these images for The Nature Conservancy.”

Special shoot

Cameron is a long-time supporter of ocean conservation – and also of the Hawaiian photographer’s work. “I have long admired Christy’s art and began collecting her works several years ago,” he says. “Her unique style of shooting her subjects under water naturally inspired me to suggest she do a special shoot with our cast.”

Muses of Avatar - Kate Winslet
Muses of Avatar – Kate Winslet (Christy Lee Rogers)

Rogers is a recreational diver but her professional style involves shooting her models under water while she remains at the surface, which allows the play of light refracting through the water to evoke the feel of a classical oil painting.

The first session with Kate Winslet (who plays Ronal in the film) took place in an indoor pool outside London, and a few weeks later Rogers photographed Sigourney Weaver (Dr Grace Augustine) and Zoe Saldaña (Neytiri) using the pool at Los Angeles’ Biltmore Hotel, where Weaver remembered shooting scenes when she was playing Dana Barrett in the original Ghostbusters.

The Biltmore shoot took about eight hours but could have been far longer if not for the extensive underwater training the actresses had already undergone when filming Avatar, says Rogers.

Diver Kirk Krack, who had trained Kate Winslet to beat the underwater on-set breath-hold record of Tom Cruise (who he also trained) was on hand to help. 

Muses of Avatar Zoe Saldana and Kate Winslet
Muses of Avatar – Zoe Saldaña and Kate Winslet (Christy Lee Rogers)

Avatar apnea

Winslet achieved 7min 15sec breath-holds while training for Avatar, Weaver 6min 30sec and Zaldana almost 5min.

However, in a recent profile of Rogers and her work on Divernet, the photographer revealed that lengthy breath-holds were not usually required of her models – more important was the ability to appear relaxed and natural under water.

The artworks have been launched online as limited-edition, “museum-quality” photographs in four sizes, as well as unlimited posters. They would raise more than $10 million if every available print sold.

At the top end are acrylic mounted 149 x 183cm editions of 10 photographs costing from $30-35,000 each. The smaller prints consist of: 122 x 150cm photos in editions of 50 ($10-12,000), 99 x 122cm photos in editions of 100 ($6-7,000) and 66 x 81cm photos in editions of 500 ($2-2,200). Unsigned art poster versions measuring 33 x 41cm are on sale for $65 each.

All formats are available for purchase through Fraser Scott at A Gallery Artists via Christy Lee Rogers’ website.

Also read: Underwater Photographer Who Doesn’t Get Wet, Avatar 2: How to risk-manage 200,000 dives!, Kate Winslet: breath-holding for Britain?

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