Photographer Zena Holloway excels as the modern Jacques Cousteau

If mermaids exist then I can assure you I have met the real deal! She comes in the form of a photographer, her first skin a rather curvaceous, revealing wetsuit that puts Ursula Andress on hold! She takes her talents to new “depths”

I had the initial pleasure of working with her on a multi million pound set at Pinewood studios. We captured an image of my “Princess Neptune ” underwater headpiece that later got a repeat performance on Britain’s Next Top Model.

I managed to capture her in between her busy schedule on land…well poolside actually. I have to say that I have never, in all the years I have known her, actually seen her in clothes; just that tight, revealing wetsuit!!! Gentleman, cool down, while I present to you the enigmatic Zena.

To date, what is your most exotic photographic location?

I could say one of the many Caribbean Islands but that’s rather cliché so I’m going to suggest a weird and wonderful location in the River Plate, Uruguay. Filming for National Geographic TV I found myself on a Spanish Galleon sunk in the 18th century and littered with gold and silver treasure of all kinds. Skeletons galore, still preserved in their military uniforms with shoe leather and copper buttons in place it was honestly the stuff of movie sets. I sucked my tank dry before reluctantly having to surface after a 1:40 hour dive. Its protected by the rough water of the river and plenty of Uruguayan politics so its location was a secret and I only had the opportunity to make one dive to capture imagery and tell its story.

What scuba certificate do you hold?

Lots! A commercial ticket, Instructor licence, rebreather cert, mixed gas…. but I try to shoot as much as possible on breath hold. I find that breathing apparatus tends to slow the shoot down both in terms of fussing with kit but also the speed of getting around in the water.

What was our first water experience?

OMG you made this totally incredible headpiece custom designed for my Waterbabies project. The “Princess Neptune” design was totally extraordinary and perfect for the shoot. Styled by Heidi Taylor, the dress was by Basia Zarzycka and then crowned with your masterpiece it was an outfit to die for; the lovely Lucy Radcliffe did a sterling job of modelling. We loaded her up with all of that finery and she looked stunning. Reviewing the pictures afterwards the way the pose and styling worked together she resembled a male peacock with a fan of tail feathers splayed out in an enchanting and elaborate exotic dance.

What is your specialised underwater camera equipment?

My weapon of choice is usually the Canon mkII 1DS but I also have a Canon 1DC which I occasionally get to play with. All of the flash are Ikelite purely because I can throw them around and they still tend to work. There’s also a very large pile of terry towels which are essential to the kit list.

Do you have an environmental charity of choice?

Good question. As a family we bicycle everywhere, recycle as much as humanly possible and try to only buy products made in environmentally responsible ways. I’ve even persuaded the kids to enjoy the odd meat substitute meal much to my husband’s disgust! I believe we need to put climate change right at the top of the political agenda – its by far the biggest threat to much of the natural world and ultimately humanity. has my vote. They’re building a global climate movement, connecting people via email, putting pressure on governments to uphold their climate targets and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.

What has been your most fascinating experience/ logistically challenging project?

The most logistically challenging was a shoot I did with a group of ‘mermaids’ off the coast of Grand Turk. The mermaids were very talented and were a pleasure to work with but we were plagued with bad weather which made it extremely hard to anchor them to the bottom and buddy breathe. By contrast the most fascinating experience was working with swimming horses that were unbelievably quick and from underwater they kind of dance as their hooves kick out. However sometimes it’s the small things that occur such as having your teeth cleaned by a cleaner fish on a reef. Here’s a youtube video of it happening to someone else. . Mad eh?

What is your favourite marine creature?

Its got to be the octopus. Aged 18, I was diving in the Mediterranean on my first night dive and I found a baby octopus. They like the feel of the water moving over their bodies so he was happy to sit on my hand and while I explored the reef his curious tentacles explored my face. He clung to me for a good 20 minutes and since then I’ve been hooked on these enchanting creatures. At the end of the dive I left him next to a larger octopus thinking that they would be companions however the larger octopus slowly reached out, placed a tentacle on the smaller octopus and suddenly the little one was gone, swallowed whole! Completely horrified at what had just occurred (and feeling slightly responsible) I gave chase and much to my relief the little octopus was exhumed. I learned afterwards that octopi are cannibals, which I concede is a bit macabre, however for me they are certainly the most extraordinary and wondrous creatures in the ocean.

To find out more about this extraordinary amphibiotic talent, please visit: Zena Holloway


Louis Mariette

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