Born in London in 1837, Hollyer trained as a mezzotint engraver. He then took up photography and was elected as member of the Photographic Society of London in 1865. At this period Hollyer had a studio in Sunning Lodge, Bartholomew Villas, Kentish Town, where he made cartes-de-visite. He also photographed many sketches by the Jewish painter Simeon Solomon and met members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Aesthetic Movement.
In 1870 Hollyer moved to a studio in 9 Pembroke Square, Kensington. This was close to Holland Park, then the centre of an artistic circle that included the painters G.F. Watts and Lord Leighton.
Here Hollyer made photographic reproductions of paintings by Leighton, Watts and other leading artists. His other speciality became portrait photography, which took place on Mondays. For 30 years, beginning in 1882, artists, actors, journalists, doctors, scientists, clerics and debutantes arrived at his studio on Mondays to have their portraits taken.
In 1913 Hollyer retired, leaving his sons in charge of the business. A few years later, in 1920, he compiled three small albums of his portraits specially for his daughter. These are now in the V&A.
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum.