arts and design

John Holloway obituary

My father, John Holloway, who has died aged 90, was a photographic artist, teacher and nature conservationist. Based on the Sussex Downs, he made significant work about and of their landscape, exemplified in Downlandscapes, a series of aerial black-and-white photographs exhibited at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in 2004, and collected in an accompanying publication. These images demonstrate John’s consummate ability to render the marks on the landscape – fields, tracks and hedges – into graphic images that transcend their rural origins.

John’s passion and engagement in the visual landscape and wildlife conservation were not independent strands but fully integrated. He and his wife, Denée (nee Rayner), created a species-rich chalk grassland habitat in their garden, in the village of Kingston, near Lewes, which in 1993 was designated a Site of Nature Conservation Interest, in particular because of its abundance of butterflies, with, to date, 38 species recorded, and moths (500 species).

Black-and-white photo of Kingston Hill

Kingston Hill, 2002, by John Holloway

Born in Chelsea, London, to Eleanor (nee Harman) and Leonard Holloway, John was brought up in New Eltham, then in Kent, where, as a schoolboy, he witnessed the blitz and the Battle of Britain taking place in the skies above him.

His interest in nature started early: at Chislehurst and Sidcup county grammar school he co-founded the Sidcup Natural History Society (with Quentin Blake, a schoolmate, illustrating the newsletter). John and friends recorded one of the first nesting pairs of little ringed plovers in the UK and frequently cycled to the chalk downs, a landscape John loved.

When called for conscription in 1950, John, a conscientious objector, worked as an operating theatre technician at Queen Mary’s hospital, Sidcup. He then studied design and painting at Sidcup Art College, and arts teaching at Brighton School of Art, where he met Denée, a fellow student. They married in 1956.

Black-and-white photo of Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters Snow, 1985, by John Holloway

For 10 years from 1955, John taught at Warblington secondary school, Hampshire, becoming head of art. In 1966 he was appointed a lecturer in visual appreciation on the arts education course at Brighton Polytechnic. Reorganisation in 1978 enabled him to co-design a new BA course, then called expressive arts; later, visual and performing arts at what became Brighton University. The course exposed students to an exciting range of practising artists, such as the sculptor Helen Chadwick, who taught there with John in the 1980s. A motivating teacher, he remained in close contact with many of his students after his retirement in 1991.

John started seriously using black-and-white photography in the early 80s, building his own darkroom at home and exhibiting widely. In 1991 he was a founding member of Independent Photography in the South East.

Together, John and Denée pursued their own creative drive as artists, inspiring each other and their five children. They were wonderful parents and taught us to see the world through our own eyes and to care deeply for it.

Denée died in 2013. John is survived by his children, Louise, Michelle, Daniel, Rowan and me, and grandchildren, Ben, Bryony, Oline, Nora and Molly.


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