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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Zena Holloway - Beneath The Surface

Zena Holloway has staked out underwater model work as her field, and she's definitely the big fish in a small pond

Beneath The Surface In its purest form, it's odorless, colorless and tasteless. It's the universal solvent. It covers most of the earth, and it's essential for life. It's just water, but for Zena Holloway, it's also the key ingredient to a stunning photographic portfolio.

After picking up the hobby as a child, an Egyptian diving holiday at the age of 18 left the London-based photographer totally enamored with the world she found underwater. A few thousand dives later, Holloway is now a thriving underwater photographer and director. Her primary clients are ad agencies, but she'll happily do editorial and fashion work when the opportunities present themselves—as long as the subjects are all wet.

“Getting work at the beginning was very hard,” Holloway explains of her early days, “and I nearly packed it all in on more than one occasion. Finding work and getting established was a long, hard struggle. It's a wonderful thing that I'm as stubborn as I am, otherwise I would have fallen at the first hurdle.”

Holloway's stubbornness obviously paid off. Not only has she successfully created a career by combining two hobbies that she loves, but she has also become a specialist in a photographic style that's increasingly in demand.

“At the beginning, lots of people were advising me that it would be impossible to survive by merely shooting underwater,” says Holloway. “The situation is now very different, as photographers seem to do better if they specialize. What, with all the stock photography around and digital capture, photographers need to be producing imagery that's technically more difficult to produce. I guess I fall into this category.”


Technically, shooting underwater may be the biggest challenge a photographer can face. Not only is the environment diametrically opposed to the equipment required, but the water itself also can act as an aberrant lens and a cc filter all in one. Holloway has overcome these technical challenges by spending so much time underwater that working there is second nature.

“I stopped logging my dives at 1,500,” she says. “That was about seven years ago. So I've got quite a lot of diving experience. All the diving that I did when I was younger has been very valuable. When I'm underwater, I don't think about it at all. Scuba is just a means of transport to get you where you want to be, which leaves me to concentrate on getting the shot.”

Where Holloway usually wants to be is in the pool, but she's just as comfortable shooting in open water as she is working in an indoor facility. While the photographic approach and equipment required may be different for each situation, that variety is part of Holloway's underwater fun.

“Shooting in open water is slightly different,” she explains. “You don't have as much control, but you gain an amazing working environment, which can look incredible. In open water, I always just try to go with the flow, literally. I often start with a quick setup, but find much better alternatives along the way.

“I wish I had a studio pool,” she continues. “That's on my 10-year plan. But there are a number of locations throughout the U.K. that provide underwater facilities, and all have a variety of pros and cons, which need to be taken into account with each job.”


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