CONNER EKO (SINGER / SONGWRITER)
This is a reprint from the Vallejo Times-Herald article by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, published on 11/3/15.
What do Neil Patrick Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Patrick Swayze, Don Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mario Lopez and Vietnam, Africa, the Amazon jungle, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Israel and North Africa have in common? They’ve all been photographed by Vallejo resident Joel Lawrence Holzman and appeared in various local and national publications. And this is only a partial list, he says.
The New York native said he’s been living life through a camera lens since childhood.
“I picked up my dad’s camera at an early age,” said Holzman, proprietor of the Serenity Lawrence Studios, LLC at 150 Glen Cove Marina Rd., Suite 100. “I got my first camera as a gift from an aunt when I was 10 and got a better one at 13. By the time I was 15, I was on the school paper and yearbook.”
Holzman, 68, said taking photos was and is his creative outlet.
“It was a way of expressing myself,” he said. “I couldn’t draw, I’m not an athlete, but picking up a camera and shooting gave me a lot of satisfaction, and being involved with the school paper and yearbook gave me a sense of belonging.”
But, Holzman said he didn’t try to make a living with his camera until much later.
“I was a carpenter, a cabbie, a truck driver for a moving company,” he said. “The first picture I had published was of a free concert by Jefferson Starship, whose publicist was a client of the moving company. I gave them a few of my shots, and they wound up in the Chicago Tribune. They sent me a check for $75.”
Holzman’s life adventure landed him at least once on the other end of a historical photo, when his image appears in Rolling Stone’s Woodstock edition, he said.
“I was 21 or 22,” he said. “I was in it with my girlfriend at the time. It was pretty great.”
In his late 20s in 1975, Holzman moved to San Francisco to try and make a living out of his avocation, he said. A shot he took of Calistoga’s mayor drinking a bottle of water, wound up used in an ad campaign and Holzman said he started to believe he could really make a go of a career.
When he realized his passion was really with taking glamour shots of women, Holzman moved to Los Angeles, he said.
A request to take a photo of Calista Carradine, daughter of actor David Carradine, at their home, led to his taking some shots of the actor, which were published in a magazine, he said.
“Because of that, a company called ‘Shooting Star’ asked permission to publish the photos overseas and that sort-of got the celebrity photography thing going,” he said.
Throughout the 1980s, Holzman said he was kept busy shooting photos for soap opera and teen magazines, and also publications like US magazine.
“So, all of a sudden, I found myself shooting celebrities,” he said.
“Like the poster for the ‘Doogie Howser’ TV show, and Pierce Brosnan for (TV’s) ‘Remington Steele,’” said Holzman’s wife of about two years, Beth “Serenity” Holzman, 30. A model who helps her husband with his studio, she runs a vintage-like clothing store on Sonoma Boulevard near Georgia Street in downtown Vallejo. The couple has lived here since 2011. “He also shot the whole cast of ‘Saved by the Bell.’ The list just goes on and on. He’s also done a lot of red carpet work.”
Joel Holzman said he enjoys the challenge of photography, particularly of creating old-fashioned pinup girl, glamour-type shots of women — even ones who’s innate glamour is not immediately obvious.
“The inner beauty of women comes to the surface from what they feel inside, and I can capture the inner essence,” he said. “I’m good at it.”
Holzman said that between photography gigs, he earned a degree in marine sciences and found he also enjoys photographing primates and exotic landscapes.
“I was in Africa with the Peace Corps — an original Sargent Shriver Peace Corps site, where I built fish ponds, but I was also asked to photograph the schools and other cultural sites there. So when I went back to school for my master’s degree in visual and physical anthropology, I drew on my connections and experience there to photograph the gorillas,” he said. “I made a documentary on the lowland gorillas for my master’s.”
Most recently, in 2011, Holzman said he did a documentary on efforts to save the francois langur monkeys of Vietnam which are nearing extinction.
“He was trekking in the jungle, and he called me every day, saying things like, ‘I almost died today,’” Beth Holzman said.
“The guides were wearing flip-flops and I was in these (substantial) hiking boots, and they had a lot less trouble that I did (making our way through the jungles of Vietnam),” he said.
Holzman has shot birds in the Amazon and taken off on unplanned treks to South America and elsewhere — a habit he’s cut way back on since getting hitched.
“When I met him, his house was a collage of his stuff, it was magical,” Beth Holzma said. “It was one of the things that made me fall in love with him. It showed his artistic ability; all his cards were out there.”
A self-described “Gypsy at heart,” Holzman said the adventure continues, albeit in a different way.
“I’ve never been married before,” he said. “I’ve never owned a home before. So this is an adventure for me.”
Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.