Bak 17 Is Online!
'Face', 17th issue of Bak Magazine, is now online! Sit back, relax and enjoy!


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Interviews in Bak | 10
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Zena Holloway
Photographer { }
Zena Holloway

You work as a freelance underwater photographer since 1994. It’s a very brave step to choose that discipline and it must be very difficult to find clients especially at the beginning of your career. When and how did you decide to choose this job?

My certifying SCUBA instructor in London had worked in the underwater film industry for features such as The Abyss and James Bond. By 21 I had already taught SCUBA for 3 years around the world and was certain that I wanted to follow in his footsteps. My photography grew out of a passion to create independently. At the start I was very keen to make short underwater films but photography proved an easier learning ground and much less expensive.

Your photographs look not only so creative and glamorous, but also very soft and natural, so natural that, I personally found myself holding my breath just like I’m under the water while watching your creations. You are creating the atmosphere, planning the lighting, forming the composition and during all these preparations, you are communicating with your models. How do you tell them what you want them to do and what kind of difficulties are you facing while communicating?

About 80% of the time I don’t use SCUBA to shoot. I give a few words of encouragement in between takes and I work with the model to achieve the goal. When the models are on SCUBA I rely on good briefing at the start and divers to look after the artist. Underwater my hand signals between the divers can get pretty erratic but somehow they all seem to get the gist of what I’m saying. I expect after 10 years of talking underwater with your hands you learn shorthand (!).

You are also known for your beautiful Waterbabies series. Cute little urchins look very happy in your photographs although there is a stranger in dive kit and underwater camera equipments in front of them. How do you do that? What’s your secret?

To be calm and organised. Babies pick up on emotions very easily and its vital that everyone enjoys themselves if I’m to get images of happy babies.

Your daughter Brook is also one of your cute little models. First, we wish her and Willow very happy and healthy lives. What kind of future do you imagine for your daughters? Would you like them to become visual artists, too?

Wow what a question. At the moment I’m just trying to get Brooke to do her homework every night, I haven’t really thought about what comes after that.

What kind of equipment do you use in your camera housing and for lighting your sets? Do you have a team or do you prefer working alone?

I use a wonderful housing made by Seacam ( and a Canon Mk II 1ds. Lighting varies completely depending on the job and when I get a big commission in I usually draw on the skill of a range of freelancers who have worked with me before.

What kind of working space do you prefer working in?

For the moment I use Pinewood facilities where many of the big underwater feature films shoot when in London. Its a great stage and has everything I need. The water space is 6m deep, 10m wide and 20m long – so very large.

Do you remember your funniest moment in your photo shoots up to now?

I seem to remember bailing hard to save the boat whilst off the coast of Zanzibar – very funny - after the event.

Your photograph of a horse swimming looks absolutely magnificent and dreamy. How did you persuade it to work with you? :) Can you please share that interesting experience with us?

I spent 2 weeks on location to catch that 1 shot. It was a case of being in the right place at exactly the right time. Diving alone with a silent set of hooves chasing me down wasn’t the safest diving experience I’ve had. Its amazing how fast they swim and I just had to make sure that I didn’t take my eyes of him.

You made hundreds of dives in different countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Uruguay. Do you have any other special locations in your mind would you like to work in?

I’d love to experience Indo-Pacific diving. I always search out the best locations for the particular challenge I’m faced with so I’m waiting for the right job.

Your award winning video clips are very impressive just like your photographs. Do you have any plans to make a personal movie project?

I’m just drawing to the end of a 2 year project to remake Charles Kingsley’s The Waterbabies Classic novel written 1865. Lots of ideas but no firm plans after this.

Are you interested in cinema? If so, which film directors do you find closer to yourself in terms of visual comprehension?

I love the visual of Ang Lee and the vast contemporary spaces that he creates in his films.

"I love the visual of Ang Lee and the vast contemporary spaces that he creates in his films."

- Zena Holloway / Bak 10
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