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IMAGING SHOOTER SHOOTER: ZENA HOLLOWAY Photos by Zena Holloway; introduction by Stephen Frink Zena Holloway has evolved into one of the world’s top commercial underwater photographers in a circuitous and nontraditional fashion. She did not live by the sea as a child, and she does not point to Jacques Cousteau for her inspiration. She grew up in urban London until the age of eight, when she went off to boarding school in the countryside for the next eight years. Not much from those years suggested her future profession. However, there were the stories her mother told about her dad. Although he died when she was young, Holloway grew up hearing about how he loved scuba diving, and she decided she, too, should give it a try. LINDA LAIRD At 16 she enrolled in a diving course, and when she finished school at 18 she went on a dive holiday to the Red Sea. That’s when her life’s path took a plunge beneath the waves. Not ready to return to London at the end of her vacation, she got a job at a dive center and did odd jobs to make ends meet. She recalls being quite good at “cleaning the loo.” One advantage she had was being English where most of the captains and instructors were Egyptian. This gave her the language and cultural knowledge to work as a hostess aboard the daily dive boats. Holloway’s time in Egypt provided some great dive experiences, but to make a career of it she needed to become an instructor. She enrolled in an Instructor Development Course in Sharm el Sheikh and upon graduating got a job on Grand Cayman, first at Red Sail Sports and then at Bob Soto’s Diving, where she became one of three staff videographers filming the tourists as they dived. After three years she decided there was more to life than producing tourist videos and in 1995 headed back to London, where the underwater production 94 | WINTER 2016

scene there was just coming to life. Mike Portelly and others were shooting movies and stills in local pools, generating enough work to keep an assistant occupied. She found opportunity and inspiration to develop a portfolio of her own work, which led to a two-month gig shooting in Uruguay for National Geographic. In 2002 Holloway traveled to Ibiza, Spain, to photograph the UK freedive team. During the shoot she found communication with the divers difficult and had to repeatedly swim to the surface to tell them what she was looking for. Although she was never deeper than 33 feet, it was a long day of zig-zag profiles and no safety stops. After the shoot she had some symptoms that made her very concerned about decompression sickness (DCS). She drank some water and took some aspirin (not what DAN® would recommend), and fortunately her symptoms subsided. But in the course of that health scare she discovered she was pregnant. Her panic and subsequent research about the potential effects on her unborn child led to the realization that DCS could be dangerous to a developing fetus. Happily, her daughter was a normal, healthy child, and Holloway continued on with a career that involved both openocean photography and many more pool photo sessions commissioned to bring to life art directors’ visions. Her expertise in the pool was refined in a rather humble way. From 2005 through 2009 she conducted annual “bread-and-butter” tours of the USA, visiting seven cities in two weeks, shooting underwater portraits of up to 50 babies a day. While business was good at the start, advancing digital technology and increasingly accessible underwater cameras took away the novelty of what she offered, and demand for her work diminished. From there Holloway’s career turned to a more stylized and commercial genre, involving work with art directors, stylists and talented models all working together to create vibrant underwater sets. Today she is one of the most creative and in-demand producers of underwater fantasy images in both stills and video. Her client list includes Nike, Speedo, Umbro, Sony, Jacuzzi as well as publications such as GQ, Observer Magazine and How To Spend It. Based in London, she lives with her husband and their three young children, Brooke, Willow and Woody. In deference to her need to shoot both high-quality stills and 4K video, her primary underwater system is a Canon EOS-1D C in a Seacam housing. Her lighting systems include Ikelite strobes underwater and a variety of studio lights above the surface as dictated by the set and the concept. She does much of the postproduction work herself but often prefers to take images only as far as rough concepts before turning them over to a digital artist for the refinements necessary to make them finished pieces of art. Read along as Holloway tells the stories behind some of her images. Holloway at work in New Providence, Bahamas, with Stuart Cove’s shark wranglers and safety divers Previous spread: “This image was shot in the underwater stage at Pinewood Studios in the UK, the same tank used to film the underwater stunts for Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation as well as for several James Bond movies. I was lucky enough to get a commission to shoot there for 125 magazine, and the 3D Agency in London created this stunning jellyfish to go with the futuristic theme of the shoot. The orb behind the model is a powerful light in the background. The exquisite styling was by Harris Elliot (, and this editorial shot led directly to a booking for a large campaign for Rosemount wines.” PIA VENEGAS See More To see more of Holloway’s work, visit ALERTDIVER.COM | 95

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