Zena Holloway’s contemporary retelling of Charles Kingsley’s classic tale was published as a children’s book by PQ Blackwell in 2008. The book was illustrated by Heidi Taylor, translated into 4 languages and sold worldwide. In 2018 an Exhibition of the work was created and toured three major cities in Korea.
But there are no such things as water babies.
How do you know that? Have you been there to see? — Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley was born in England in 1819. He wrote The Water Babies; A FairyTale for a Land Baby for his youngest son in 1863, in the middle of Queen Victoria’s reign. Kingsley felt that the poor were treated very badly, and he was determined to expose the difficulties they faced – the widespread use of child labour, the lack of education, and the appalling conditions in which children were forced to live and work. Pollution of rivers, sanitation, and public health were also major problems in Victorian England. Many of these issues, as well as Kingsley’s passion for natural history, are reflected in The Water Babies.
THE WATERBABIES EXHIBITION
Q&A with Zena Holloway [extract]
Some of the children in the book appear very young and must be extremely confident in the water. How do you source your models and what kind of audition process is involved?
I have been working with babies and young children underwater right from the very beginning of my career as a photographer. In the past I have been commissioned to photograph babies during swimming classes both in the United States and United Kingdom. With this background it was relatively easy to find the right children to play the characters, although I consider myself extremely lucky to have found such a sweet and adorable kid to play the lead role.
What were the most challenging shots in the book?
I believe the famous old chestnut of show business -Never work with children or animals – is sound advice. I think I could add that if you put them both together and shoot them underwater that’s asking for trouble. However the images of Tom swimming with otters, dogs and whales are certainly some of the most rewarding and I would do it all over again