Interview with Zena Holloway by Fifty Fathoms and Blancpain

Blancpain is convinced that public awareness is vital to achieve its goals of preserving and protecting the world’s oceans. Edition Fifty Fathoms, is an annual limited-edition publication launched in 2008 which invites underwater photographers to share their work:

Featured photographer, Zena Holloway, shares the wonder that she finds underwater in the latest edition of Fifty Fathoms.

Water is my medium, an unpredictable, bewitching environment where I can throw out the rulebook of the atmosphere we usually inhabit and just observe. Who’ d have thought that deep underwater, a simple flower can effervesce and “breathe”. Or how long, fine hair can look like smoke. Or even how blood appears to be the color of green algae. Sink below the surface and detect sound through bone conduction  altering hearing in remarkable ways. We can register very high frequencies like whale song and ‘feel’ thunderously loud boat traffic vibrations that resonate through the body. Underwater, we are essentially mute, substituting language for expression and movement.

On a casting I see  many different models. Some will ‘shrink’ into themselves, becoming introverted versions of what they are on land. Others take it in their stride, the water having less effect while often the most unconfident are the most intriguing. Water acts like a leveller, stripping us back to the bare essentials. Underwater, there is no reflection on the eyes as the water mixes with the liquid surface, like it’s washing away the mask we wear on land. But what really intrigues me is something deeper. For some reason, many people express themselves in an incredibly natural, intuitive way, becoming perfect subjects for telling stories through body language. It might be a heightened sense of self that comes from near-weightless suspension. Maybe it’s just something that connects with our very distant past. The chances are, it all plays a part and the effect is made even more magical by the visually transformative effects of water.

My images illuminate the space between myth and reality. On the one hand, our seas and oceans are powerful symbols from folklore and fairy- tale, on the other, water is an eternally present and powerful truth, nourishing, sustaining and commanding our respect. Somewhere in between is a world of imagination that I am inspired to bring to life, asking questions about ourselves  and our responsibilities to the natural environment.