Zena Holloway

Reknown for her extraordinary magical imagery, Zena Holloway is an artist who has taken humanity and the etherial into the underworld to new watery depths.

Born in 1973, this daughter of an airline pilot found inspiration to work underwater behind a camera at the age of 18 while on a diving holiday in Egypt.

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She became enamoured with the underwater realm and eventually came to work abroad as a SCUBA instructor and underwater videographer for several years. She returned to London in 1995 to work as an underwater photographer.

Totally self-taught, Holloway has immersed herself in highly technical aspects of underwater photography and carved out a place in the competitive world of photography and advertising. Initially, work was hard to come by, said Holloway, and she nearly dropped the whole thing on more than one occasion. But a stubborn spirit refused to let her give up, and she finally received her first commission from Faberge in 1997.

Thereafter, she received a steady stream of commissions for both commercials and print.

In the beginning, a lot of people told her it couldn’t be done, but specializing in underwater photography ended up playing an important role in her success as the market became saturated with stock photography and digital capture. Holloway managed to combine her two great loves—diving and photography—into one lucrative business.

Some of Holloway’s clients include Nike (Next big thing), Herbal Essences (Leo Burnett), Umbro (Exposure), Olay (Saatchi & Saatchi NY), Vogue (Joshua), Bounty (Publicis NY), Jacuzzi (Y&R San Fran), Greenpeace (Saatchi & Saatchi), Dolland & Aitchison (DFGW), Elastoplast (TBWA), Toto (Steele +), Sony (TBWA), EMI/Parlaphone, GlaxoSmithKline (Ogilvy), Epson (Burkitt DDB), Unibanco (Bates), National Geographic, BBC, Ploydor, The Body Shop, Sunday Times, Dazed and Confused, How to Spend it.

She has collected quite a few awards over the years including the International Photography Awards in which she placed second in both the Advertising Beauty category and the Fine Art Nude category in 2006. She got on the shortlist of the Fashion & Beauty category of the AoP awards for her “Angel” series, which also won the Fashion & Beauty category of the Applied Arts Photography Awards in 2006.

In 2005, her work was chosen for the IV Moscow International Festival Gold Dolphin photography section, and in 2003, she won an Honorable Mention in the Nikon International Photo Contest.

That same year she won gold at the 30th Festival Mondial de’ L’image Sous-Marine in the category of publicity. In 1998, she won silver in the UK at The Royal Photographic Society’s International annual print exhibition for “Waterbabies”.

Holloway has also collected a number of directors awards including a place on The Reel, UK, in 2007 and a silver in 2003 from Festival Mondial de’ L’image Sous-Marine for her “Watermark” audio/visual. In 2001, she captured the gold for her “Unibanco” commercials at Festival Mondial de’ L’image Sous-Marine, which also won recommendation in the Portuguese Film Festival that same year.

Water and light

Holloway sees the underwater world as a unique canvas and manipulator of light. “The biggest effect that water has on light is to gobble it up. Underwater lighting needs to be very powerful to get anything out of it. Everything tends to take on a cyan cast, and colours can alter a bit, but other than that, the boundaries are set by equipment limitations. I’m frequently trying to simulate interesting-looking lighting that I see on the surface and trying to adapt underwater strobes or lights to see if I can make a similar effect underwater.”

She shoots in open water as well as in the pool, but notes the differences: “You don’t have as much control, but you gain an amazing working environment, which can look incredible.” Holloway finds working intuitively and literally “going with the flow” In open water, starting with a quick simple set up, allows one to find better alternatives as the session progresses.

However, Holloway does have dreams for a controlled environment in the future: “I wish I had a studio pool. That’s on my 10-year plan.”

Today, Holloway lives in west London with her partner and their two young daughters, Brooke and Willow.  

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