The new series of Extraordinary Portraits has dropped on BBC, and there is so much to be excited about. The series crosses everyday heroes with famous portrait artists to create pieces that speak to today’s society. Beyond Print is honoured to work with Christy Lee Rogers to bring to life her extraordinary portrait of Cece, a Nigerian-born albino model.
In episode two of the series, we meet Cece, a model with albinism, and world-renowned photographic artist, Christy Lee Rogers. Known for her breathtaking underwater photography, the Hawaiian native has always been influenced by the dynamic nature of water. Now based out of Nashville, Tenessee, Christy creates striking, baroque-style scenes in which the water has its own unique role to play, giving images an almost painted appearance. The use of fabric is heavily used in Christy’s process to incorporate colour and texture like a painter using a brush.
Cece is an Iba Nigerian model with albinism. From a young age, Cece surrounded herself with music and the arts to shield herself from constant teasing and judgement from her peers. As a young woman, Cece would use makeup to try and make her skin and hair darker in an attempt to blend in, looking more like her family and those around her. Cece has always felt a strong cultural connection to her Nigerian roots. But her love for her heritage is also mixed with tension about her feeling of belonging due to her albinism. Albinism is a genetic condition that affects melanin production in the body, causing the person to have significantly light skin, hair, and eyes.
Over time, Cece began to see that the face she wanted to cover up and hide with makeup was something beautiful. After posting makeup-free images of herself to social media, Cece began to receive positive feedback and was even offered a professional modelling contract. was In the end, Cece’s albinism gave her more feelings of freedom, confidence and eventually made her career
Cece says that she resonates with the ugly duckling story, so Cristy makes it her mission to create a portrait in which Cece never again feels like the ugly duckling and can see her true beauty both inside and out. Christy wants to find bright fabrics that will reflect Cece’s Nigerian heritage, so she and Cece visit a market in Brixton. Traditional Nigerian textiles use a mixture of patterns all within the same fabric. Contrasting colours and patterns work together to make a bold statement.
How Beyond Print Helped Christy Lee Rogers?
Christy works with her watery canvas at the pool to start building her scene. First, she layers the water with black fabric, which will act as a background to the piece. Then she begins layering coloured fabrics, working as layers of paint. Cece is dressed in a flowing white halter-neck dress for this shoot, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe. Christy is inspired by the birth of celestial stars and poses Cece in the centre of the scene, dressed in all white with colourful swathes of fabric that the two purchased in Briston emanating around her.
We were thrilled that Christy Lee Rogers chose our studio to highlight this important work. Cindy comes to our Hackney studio to view her prints in person in the episode. Christy likes to play with size, so we used c-type printing and blew up her images to true-to-life size on our top of the line Epson printer. Once she had decided on the best size (the largest available at over 5 feet), it was time for Perspex mounting and presentation.
The finished result was a stunning life-size portrait that took Cece and her family’s breath away. Cece is almost brought to tears as she says, “You’ve transformed me into a graceful swan.”