PR140916-1 Ambrotype glass plate of Crew and Shannon class lifeboat R and J Welburn.
PR140916-2 RNLI filming reaction of Crew looking at the developed plate
PR140916-3 Jack Lowe in ‘Neena’ developing Exmouth Crew photograph
On 7 September, Photographer Jack Lowe visited Exmouth lifeboat station to record the 21st century boathouse, Shannon class lifeboat and Crew volunteers with a Victorian camera.
Jack plans to visit all 237 RNLI lifeboat stations in Britain and Ireland, photographing each station along with the crew and Coxswain/Senior Helm using Wet Plate Collodion, a Victorian process that allows him to record stunning images on glass.
The ambitious project is likely to take three to five years to complete. Jack, who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, travels in ‘Neena’ — a decommissioned NHS ambulance purchased on eBay and converted into a mobile darkroom.
The day’s activity was also filmed by the charity to explain the process of making a picture. The RNLI Film and Imaging team chose Exmouth as a venue with a state-of-the-art Shannon class lifeboat R and J Welburn and a 21st century boathouse to contrast with 19th century photographic techniques.
During the day, Jack and his assistant ‘Hen’ (Ian Henderson) produced four photographs: the boathouse; Coxswain, Steve Hockings-Thompson; identical twin Crew volunteers, Roy and Andy Stott and finally, 22 Crew and operational volunteers who were available on the day. As each picture was made, volunteers were invited into ‘Neena’ to watch a portrait of themselves developing before their eyes.
Jack, grandson of Dad’s Army actor Arthur Lowe said:
‘We had fantastic support and hospitality from the volunteers, it was much appreciated. Hen and I stayed to watch them land on the beach after their fortnightly Shannon exercise that evening – something I’ve always wanted to see ‘in real life’. It was a perfect ending to a seamlessly busy day.’
The photographs will ultimately be showcased in an exhibition and book, both of which are set to be fundraisers for the charity that saves lives at sea.
50 limited edition prints are available to pre-order on the Devon page of www.lifeboatstationproject.com.
The video of Project is currently being edited and will be available on the RNLI video library soon.