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Photographer Reaches Halfway Mark On Epic Project To Capture Lifeboat Stations With Victorian Camera

27th September 2018
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Jack Lowe and camera alongside Castletownbere’s all-weather lifeboat Annette Hutton Jack Lowe and camera alongside Castletownbere’s all-weather lifeboat Annette Hutton Photo: Duncan Davis

#Lifeboats - After almost four years, Jack Lowe will this week reach the halfway point of his epic ambition to photograph all 238 stations in the RNLI network when he visits Dover Lifeboat Station.

Since he began The Lifeboat Station Project in January 2015, Lowe has photographed more than 2,000 lifeboat volunteers — and around a dozen dogs, who are often included if their owners are on the crew — using wet plate collodion, a Victorian process that creates stunning images on glass.

And he produces his work on the road in ‘Neena’, a decommissioned NHS ambulance he’s converted into a mobile darkroom.

By the time he reaches Dover this week, he will have been to 140 lifeboat stations and created images on over 1,500 glass plates.

Making his images has taken 120 litres of developer and 45 litres of collodion.

He’s also driven over 28,000 miles, which is more than once round the world, and used about 8,400 litres of fuel – and stayed at more than 100 B&Bs.

This major landmark comes as the RNLI has announced that Lowe’s work will feature in a major exhibition, Calm Before the Storm: The Art of Photographing Lifeboats, in 2019.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing.

This time last year, Lowe’s tour took him to Ireland, where he photographed the volunteers crews at stations along the South Coast from Waterford to Kerry.

After Lowe had completed his 100th station — Valentia in Co Kerry — he revealed to his social media followers that he was struggling to keep going.

His struggles were physical, emotional — and financial, as the project is largely self-funded.

But thanks to the support of fans of his work via the crowdfunding platform Patreon, Lowe was able to continue the project on a surer footing.

“Ultimately, I’m honoured beyond words to be making this archive,” Lowe said. “It’s a privilege spending time with so many lifeboat volunteers, preserving their bravery and devotion for future generations.

“This journey is unprecedented in so many ways. The further I travel, the deeper the body of work becomes on just about every level and in ways that I could never have foreseen or imagined.”

The Lifeboat Station Project’s dedicated website has links to Lowe’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, as well as his Patreon campaign.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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